By Alexi Knock, Staff Writer
When Christian Fuscarino graduates from the University and eventually decides to get married, his plans will be blocked by the New York State government. Fuscarino, a sophomore television major and founder of Hofstra's Pride Network, is a member of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community.
On Monday, March 22, the Office of Multicultural and International Student Programs sponsored a discussion about the gay marriage rights bill that was recently shot down by a 38-24 vote in the New York State Senate.
Joanna Solmonsohn, the Long Island Organizer for the Pride Agenda was invited to speak to students about this issue. The Pride Agenda is a statewide organization that seeks to achieve LGBTQ equality and justice.
Solmonsohn explained that in order to pass any bill in New York, it has to be signed by both the Assembly and the Senate.
"The gay marriage bill had already passed in the state assembly three times," said Solmonsohn. "December 2, 2009, was the first time the bill had been voted on in the New York State Senate."
In the Senate, they do roll call votes to pass bills, so the senators have to publicly announce their votes. "As soon as some of the democrats voted no, the republicans saw this and all voted no as one body," said Solmonsohn.
The reason the Republicans decided to vote a group was a very strategic and political one. "Elections were coming up, and conservatives said they would not vote for a republican who supported gay marriage, so the republicans running had to vote against it in order to have the conservative vote," said Solmonsohn.
Although many supporters of gay marriage questioned whether it was a good idea to have this vote so soon, the Pride Agenda continues to support that decision even though they were not sure if the bill would be passed. "Without the vote, we'd have no idea where any of the senators stood," said Solmonsohn.
The Pride Agenda also felt it was a major victory that for the first time this issue was getting a vote in the senate. "Some legislators had a realization that as a senator, it's not for them to decide what's moral and what not," said Solmonsohn. "This was a really big victory for us and we felt that there was a lot of courage shown by some of our senators."
Solmonsohn also mentioned that by finding almost 1,000 faith supporters, the Pride Agenda dismissed myths about those who are against gay marriage.
Ryan Greene, an advisor of the Pride Network, feels that religion should not be on the front lines of the gay marriage battle. "I think that if a church does not want to have a ceremony for two gay people, that's fine," he said. "But with the separation of Church and State in this country, these marriages or unions should be supported by the United States Government."
Fuscarino, whose mother has a civil union in New Jersey, feels his mother is being treated as a second class citizen. "It's not even separate and equal. It's separate and unequal," he said.
"It is inconceivable that these students may not be able to marry the person they are actually in love with in the future," Greene said. "This issue is not about what you are for or against, it is about equality for all citizens."
In the end, however, the Pride Agenda simply did not get enough support for this equality. "It was difficult and disappointing because they were saying to us, ‘we still don't see you as equals,'" said Solmonsohn.
Despite some upsets, the Pride Agenda is looking to the future. "We've got an election year coming up and we now know who is on our side and who is not," said Solmonsohn. "We are picking the senators off one by one until we have the votes we need. We will keep pushing until we win."