Governor Andrew Cuomo, Activists React to Marriage Equality in Albany

After the Senate passed same-sex marriage equality in Albany last night, the reactions were mixed: volatile, ecstatic, tearful, joyous, and outraged. There was a shared sense of history and exhaustion by people for and against the issue, as many of those in the Capitol had been there around the clock for days. Both inside and outside the chamber, despite the somewhat intimidating presence of state troopers, people were irrepressible in their emotions.

Here are a few of the emotional reactions we witnessed, and some pictures, after the jump.

Brian Brown, the President of the anti-marriage equality National Organization for Marriage, sat in the galley openly weeping with sadness when the 33 to 29 vote was announced. (The bulk of the galley erupted spontaneously in chants of "USA, USA, USA", and even some members of the press couldn't keep themselves from clapping and cheering.)

Jake Goodman and Natasha Dillon of Queer Rising, were, uncharacteristically, actually at a loss for words. (For a little while, at least.)

Those state troopers (whose job it was to make people sit down and stop clapping) actually later apologized to at least one of the people they'd shushed for making them be quiet.

This woman sitting behind us began crying with (unlike Brian Brown) tears of joy streaming down her face. The seven year-old-boy, who sat in the Senate gallery patiently awaiting a vote for about twelve hours yesterday, couldn't stop hugging his gay dad.

In an interview with Senator Tom Duane, he told us that, even though Lt. Governor Bob Duffy limited his remarks on the floor, he hadn't left anything important out. "You know, I just wanted to show my heart," Duane said. "That was the most important thing. If I left out a line, or there was a card that didn't get read off of, that's fine. It was just my heart I wanted to open up to my colleagues." (Also, when Natasha Dillon greeted him, he thanked her for getting equality passed.) Duane also made it clear that, while he and his partner of many years Louis Webre can now get married, no immediate nuptials are on the calendar...yet.

Lt. Governor Bob Duffy, with "no disrespect to his father" (and despite the fact they were standing in front of a portrait of FDR!) introduced his boss as the "greatest Governor in the history of New York."

Fred Dicker of the New York Post asked Governor Cuomo about "same-sex marriage" and actually seemed to correct himself mid-question, changing the phrase to "marriage equality."

Governor Andrew Cuomo addressed the press in the briefing room of of the Hall of Governors, with his daughters and his girlfriend Sandra Lee watching. He had the confidence of a man who knew he'd done something politically difficult, but of which he was clearly personally and intimately proud. Saying that "I say this as a proud Democrat," Cuomo pointed out that 29 of the 30 Democratic members of the Senate voted for marriage equality. (We are familiar with the one who voted against it.) Cuomo also had nothing but praise for Republican Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who allowed the measure to come up for a vote despite voting against it, and for the four Republicans whose "yes" votes Cuomo seemed to think were even more courageous than those of their Democratic counterparts.

Shortly after Cuomo left the briefing room, he signed the freshly printed Marriage Equality Act into law. Then he, Lee and his daughters descended the grand staircase of the immense Capitol building, with Senators James Alesi and Tom Duane, and Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell in tow. The marble halls of Henry Hobson Richardson's Capitol, so recently alive with protests and chants, spirituals of praise and resistance, and tears of joy and sadness, quickly grew muted. The members of the Capitol press corps made their way home, members of the New York press began trying to figure out how to get home, and all of the activists were already long gone.

On a Greyhound bus from Albany back to New York City , drag queen Honey LaBronx was out of drag in her alter-ego (as Ben Strothmann). We were there when LaBronx stopped traffic on Sixth Avenue at rush hour earlier this year, in an effort to bring attention to marriage equality and hold Governor Cuomo's feet to the fire. LaBronx is also a staple of Drag Queen Weddings for Equality. Yesterday, Strothmann had to make a difficult decision about having a big work opportunity in the city, or coming up to Albany.

Did he have any regrets about missing that professional chance, and instead choosing to be one of the hundred or so witnesses in the room when the New York Senate passed marriage equality? "I wouldn't have missed this for the world," Strothmann said, content. He tried to stay awake as long as he could on the bus, "because once I fall asleep, today is over, and what happened will just be history."

Soon enough he nodded off, knowing that marriage equality was real and, indeed, history.

strasher@villagevoice.com | @steven_thrasher

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