New York State Senators Defect to Republican Party; Reproductive Health, Marriage Equality Legislation Doomed

New York State Senators Defect to Republican Party; Reproductive Health, Marriage Equality Legislation Doomed

Emily Douglas

Two Democratic New York state senators vote with Republicans to change leadership, imperiling both reproductive health and same-sex marriage legislation.

Both reproductive health and same-sex marriage advocates’ hopes were riding high on the conclusion of the New York state legislative session.  Reproductive health advocates have been building support across the state for the Reproductive Health Act — a bill to codify Roe in state law — since the beginning of the session. Advocates had hoped for swift passage of the bill in the waning days of the session.  Same-sex marriage proponents, too, were engaging in an all-out push, lobbying and asking New Yorkers to pressure their representatives. Both groups hoped that a Democratic Senate — the first in 40 years — could pass socially progressive legislation that the Republican Senate had blocked for decades.

But now Senate Democrats Hiram Monserrate and Pedro Espada Jr. are joining Senate Republicans in a motion to replace Majority Leader Malcolm Smith with Republican, robbing the Democrats of a majority in the legislative body.

The New York Times reports,

All 30 Republicans stood with their hands raised, signaling a vote for a change in leadership. Mr. Espada and Mr. Monserrate joined them, each raising his hand. It appeared that Republicans had won the vote by a 32-to-30 margin. If the Republicans retake the chamber, Dean G. Skelos, of Long Island, would likely be the new majority leader. 

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Senate watchers speculate that Monserrate’s and Espada’s intense opposition to same-sex marriage led them to defect from the Party. "Why Mr. Espada and Mr. Monserrate suddenly defected on Monday afternoon was not immediately clear. Both men are under investigation by the authorities. The state attorney general’s office is investigating a health care agency, Soundview HealthCare Network, that Mr. Espada ran until recently. And Mr. Monserrate, who was indicted on felony assault charges in March stemming from an attack on his companion, would automatically be thrown out of office if convicted," The Times reports.

Meanwhile, Malcolm Smith called the move "illegal."

Blogger Elizabeth Benjamin concludes, "At this point, it’s all kind of a mess."

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