9:43 am Oct. 19, 20121
At a state senate debate in Middle Village last night, Democratic state senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. and his Republican challenger, Councilman Eric Ulrich, discussed same-sex marriage for the first time in a debate format.
Addabbo is a moderate Democrat who voted against the bill in 2009 and then supported it in 2011. Ulrich is a 27-year-old Republican, who, like the bulk of his party, opposes the bill, even though he's also part of a generation that is seen as far more accepting of it.
At the debate, hosted by the Juniper Park Civic Association in Middle Village, a socially conservative enclave in Western Queens, Addabbo tacked right, taking no credit for the bill's passage and telling the audience, "It's a year later and we have not seen any changes in our lives." (Which, to this crowd, was intended as a positive statement on the bill's effect.)
Addabbo also disagreed with my characterization that he "evolved" on the issue, offering a numerical justification for his vote.
He said he voted no on the bill in 2009 because a majority of his constituents opposed it, and voted it for it in 2011 because, this time, a majority supported it.
"7,974 people, I'll never forget the number, weighed in on this issue for me," Addabbo said. "74 percent wanted me to vote yes. I voted yes. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do. I can't choose between the easy votes and the hard votes. I make tough decisions."
Ulrich seized on this reasoning, and said Addabbo's counting was the wrong way to decide an issue like this.
"When we make decisions as elected officials, we do not stick our finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing," the younger Ulrich lectured Addabbo. "This year we vote one way and two years later we vote another. When you're an elected official, and you have to take tough stands on issues, no matter how difficult and heartwrenching they may be, you have to go with your gut. You have to vote your values.
"And you know when you worry about the consequences, at the ballot box. You're not supposed to worry about that on any other day, other then election day."
Ulrich said he would have voted against the bill, but won't work to repeal it.
When I asked Ulrich what impact the bill has had, he declined to embrace the usual objections, that it will erode family values or send the wrong message to children.
"For those couples who chose to get married, it has had a positive impact on their lives and the lives of their families," Ulrich said. "For them. That is the only impact that I can tell so far."
Before letting the moderator, Lisa Colangelo of the Daily News, proceed with another question, Addabbo added a final point.
"My vote was not the deciding vote," he said. "Even if I did vote no, it still passes. So, I'm not the deciding vote and you have marriage equality because of [Republican Senate Leader] Dean Skelos and the four Republicans [who voted for it]."
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