After Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed same-sex marriage into law, a city councilman had a chance to break out a long-awaited wedding cake and officials were already speculating how much revenue would come from the legislation.
By a 33-29 vote, the state Legislature passed the controversial measure late Friday night to end the summer session, drawing praise from gay rights activists across Queens and condemnation from prominent religious figures.
“New York state has said ‘I do’ to equality,” said City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), an openly gay legislator.
Dromm stood outside the Jackson Heights Post Office Saturday with a white cake bedecked in rainbow-colored candy. Someone began playing the traditional processional wedding song on a nearby piano as Dromm cut the cake along with openly gay Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), who had just returned from casting his vote in Albany.
“Yesterday was a ‘where were you?’ moment,” Peralta told a small crowd gathered on the sidewalk. “Where were you when equality became a reality?”
It was unclear whether the bill would actually pass until state Sens. Stephen Saland (R-Poughkeepsie) and Mark Grisanti (R-Buffalo) announced their last-minute support on the floor and brought the total to four Republicans in support of the bill after state Sens. James Alesi (R-Fairport) and Mark Grisanti (R-Buffalo) hopped on board earlier last week.
A crucial moment for Queens lawmakers came on June 14, when state Sens. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) and Shirley Huntley (D-St. Albans) announced a sea change in their districts and flipped positions after voting against a similar bill in 2009.
The bill has divided religious organizations, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg welcomed the economic boon that gay couples will provide to the city.
“Stay in a hotel. Buy flowers, clothes, a meal or whatever. It’s good for the economy,” he said Monday, adding that the city will have extra judges on hand to dole out marriage licenses the first day it is legal to do so on July 24.
State Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) wasted no time in announcing he will host a mass same-sex wedding ceremony in Bethpage State Park July 29.
Several wedding halls around the borough, like Terrace in the Park, had not received any bookings for same-sex marriage receptions yet and Queens Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Jack Friedman wondered just how big the impact on the borough would be.
“I don’t think it’s going to be major. It could have a minor, positive impact on the economy,” he said.
One Queens activist wanted no part in the possible economic benefits and blasted Albany for not putting in protections for private businesses.
“I pose this question, what about catering houses? Do they have the right to discriminate against these wild, flamboyant parties?” asked Frank Skala, president of the East Bayside Homeowners Association.
Archbishop Timothy Dolan, of the Catholic Archdiocese of New York, opposed the bill and issued a statement expressing his dissatisfaction.
“We worry that both marriage and the family will be undermined by this tragic presumption of government in passing this legislation that attempts to redefine these cornerstones of civilization,” the statement said.
But not all religious figures were against the bill.
The Rev. Ronald Tompkins, a former Jackson Heights pastor, blessed the crowd at the post office Saturday and offered his congratulations to Dromm and the LGBT couples in attendance.
“I read the Bible. I don’t know what they are reading,” he said following the cake-cutting, in reference to religious figures who condemned the legislation. “I wish more churches were here to celebrate this moment.”
Due to language in the bill, it is up to the houses of worship to decide whether or not to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies, but those who choose not to may be missing out.