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New York News

Marriage equality debate draws towards end, as Hudson Valley residents await a decision

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New Paltz, NY – The fate of marriage equality remains in the balance in Albany, but south of the state capital, there's plenty of buzz about the issue. WAMC's Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Greg Fry has reaction from those for and against the measure that has made national headlines...

More than seven years ago, all eyes were on New Paltz, as then-mayor Jason West officiated the same-sex marriages of two-dozen couples. West, who took office for a second stint as village mayor earlier this month, says he's hopeful marriage equality will be in place in New York in the upcoming months. West says while it's inevitable, it's now a question of who will have the political courage to allow it to happen.

Billiam Van Roestenberg is a farmer in Ulster County, and was part of the ceremonies that day back in February of 2004. He says back then, people were shocked, including gay rights groups. He says the world deserves equal rights, and says those seeking rights are regular folks, including doctors, farmers, and teachers.

The political side of this entire conversation over marriage equality is playing an enormous role. Van Roestenberg says it's all about politics, while criticizing Republican members of the Senate, who he says are using the debate to gain votes. He says elected officials want to be elected again, and have a great deal of influence, and look forward to a great deal of money being involved in this debate.

It's believed that one more vote is needed in the Senate to adopt marriage equality. Two Hudson Valley state senators have been at the forefront of that conversation. Republican Greg Ball was initially believed to be an undecided vote. He said Thursday morning on MSNBC says there needs to be strong religious protections in a bill regarding same-sex marriage, and says that final language still doesn't exist. Another lawmaker believed to be a potential deciding vote is long-time Senator Steve Saland, who expressed opposition to marriage equality during a political debate last September.

Judith Anderson is a Co-Director of the Hudson Valley Coalition for Life. She says in some ways, she's surprised the conversation has gotten this far. She doesn't agree that this is a civil rights issue, but says she understands why the argument exists. Anderson says there should be compassion for the homosexual person, but doesn't believe that entails agreeing with the concept that a same-sex marriage is equal, or is necessary at this point.

Anderson adds that in her view, marriage is not the invention of government. Village of New Paltz Mayor Jason West remains hopeful, but also believes that this issue would be right back on the table next year. West says if the measure fails by a single vote, he says there will be a Republican senator walking out of his chamber with regret.