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Why Sen. Kevin Parker Got Mad
June 25th, 2011

Last night as the country watched the New York State Senate vote on same-sex marriage things came to a jarring halt. Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, who was presiding over the chamber, called session into recess to find out what was happening on the floor. Were you watching? Did you wonder what was going on?

Essentially the Senate rules were changed in a backroom agreement before session started and then changed again during the vote to make sure it would be concluded to make the 11 p.m. newscasts.

Sen. Kevin Parker, a long time proponent of same-sex marriage, was informed by Senate staff that he would not be able to explain his vote. He was livid. He cursed out the governor and eventually stormed to the podium where Duffy was presiding — a number of other Democratic senators followed him, seemingly to calm him down.

Earlier when Sen. Ruben Diaz tried to lay the marriage bill aside he was ignored. Normal Senate procedure allows for any senator to lay a bill aside for debate. It gives legislators a chance to debate the bill then when they vote, they again have the chance to explain their vote. But the rules weren’t the same.

Parker told the Gazette that around 7 or 8 p.m. the Senate Democratic conference met and discussed a deal. “We were informed of he procedure,” said Parker. “Everyone knew Rev. Diaz was going to lay the bill aside but we agreed not to debate the bill after he laid it aside. We would call the roll and all be able to explain our votes. We would be given two minutes each.”

The Gazette and a number of other sources reported the proposed limited debate earlier in the week. I was told to expect it by multiple senators earlier yesterday morning.

But that deal is not what happened. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s aide Steve Cohen was on the floor trying to hurry everything along. Parker says that Cohen was trying to “shut down debate. The cover story was that Dean [Skelos] was upset at Ruben Diaz’s remarks about Republicans and was going to pull the bill if we started speaking. Everyone knows we don’t control Diaz.”

Parker says he was upset most of all because as a minority-party legislator he has little power. Explaining his vote on issues is at times his only resort. Parker says his district is full of people who do not support gay marriage, and although he was a long time supporter, he felt it was important — just as it was for other senators — to explain the thinking behind his vote.

Parker was not the only angry Democrat. A number of other legislators were visibly distraught when they were informed they would not be able to speak.

Parker notes that debate also was curtailed during the budget vote earlier this year because, “It was coming up on midnight and they wanted to make sure it was officially two days early.”

He says however that the biggest mistake he and Democrats made was not standing up to support Diaz’s right to lay the bill aside. “I didn’t like what he had to say. No one wanted to hear it but it was his right as a member. Essentially the lieutenant governor ignored his request, and shame on us not standing up for him,” said Parker.

“Yes, the moment last night was about Tom Duane and Danny O’Donnell and the rights of New Yorkers — I was one of the first people to sign on to the [same-sex marriage] bill. I’ve been a proponent of it but we can’t stand by when the limited rights members have are violated. My constituents have a right to know why I was voting for it. If it took two days we should have let them speak.”

A number of other Democrats acknowledged to me that the governor’s office was pushing hard to move the debate forward so that Cuomo could make the 11 p.m. newscasts. “11, 11, 11,” that’s all they were saying said one Democratic senator.

After realizing he would not be allowed to speak despite his protests, Parker tried to leave the floor. The door he tried to exit was locked. Earlier Duffy had asked the crowd not to leave the chamber during the vote. Cuomo’s people — staff and security — had been in and out of the side door locking and unlocking it all during the debate. At one point a man wearing an ear piece emerged and surveyed the route Cuomo would take. When Parker tried to leave the door was locked again.

“I go to the door, and I tried to leave, and they had us locked in. I tried to leave, and they had us locked on to the floor,” Parker said. Finally he made it out of the chamber. “One sergeant of arms physically grabbed me. I was appalled. I’m a senator.” Parker then made his way through an ante chamber. “A plain clothes cop and secretary tried to close the door again,” he explains, trying to block his exit. “I’ve never seen a member treated in such a manner. I’ve never seen white member treated that way,” Parker, who is black, said. He was again also confronted by another sergeant of arms.

Cuomo was asked by the NY Post’s Fred Dicker at the following press conference, about the vote and why Parker might have been upset. Cuomo said that he assumed the Senate was following its normal rules. But he claimed ignorance as to what the rules actually are.

The rules on the floor weren’t the only things changed on the floor last night. Bill Mahoney of the New York Public Interest Research Group was told by two state troopers that the public was not allowed into committee meetings. Mahoney informed them that was illegal and they responded they were just following orders.

“Let me be clear,” said Parker. “The first mistake was not standing up when Diaz wanted the bill laid aside.”

By on June 25, 2011, 6:19 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Eye on Albany,Governing,Law | 24 Comments »

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24 Responses to “Why Sen. Kevin Parker Got Mad”

  1. J. King Says:
    June 26th, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    Wow! Some story! Didn’t see the story about the rules changes anywhere else.

  2. Laird Ehlert Says:
    June 27th, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    Government almost always disappoints us, doesn’t it? You might mention that Senator Bruno refused to even release same-sex marriage bills for a vote time and again for many, many years. That is big strong-arm a tactic, and completely un-democratic!

  3. John T Says:
    June 27th, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    What does that have to do with this blog?

  4. Kimberly Wilder Says:
    June 28th, 2011 at 9:57 am

    Thanks for the intersting story. Fascinating to see that, even when our government is doing some “good things”, they are often playing games and locking doors to make sure things go according to plan. Shows how much work we need to do on the system and our culture before things are truly fair.

  5. Jess Lebrn Says:
    June 28th, 2011 at 10:29 am

    Perhaps now Diaz has some sense of what it’s like to be treated unfairly. He sounded like a bumbling idiot because he is one. LGBT New Yorkers couldn’t have asked for a better victory! Yeah Cuomo!

  6. Jo Says:
    June 28th, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    Very interesting! Why isn’t this told elsewhere and ignored?! This seems like a severe violation of the separation of the branches of government by Gov. Cuomo! Is this legal?

  7. Billsey Says:
    June 29th, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    God is watching.

  8. Nikitadell Says:
    July 2nd, 2011 at 8:34 am

    This is shocking! And what is even more shocking is that the media is ignoring the story and not reporting. This rises to the level of impeachment. Cuomo used bribery, intimidation and all manner of dirty tricks to get this passed. If we ignore this, then the future of democracy is out the window. This is like some third world country stunt. we need a mechanism like they have up in Maine. They have something called a people’s veto. When they passed gay marraige up there, the people got the signatures to have a people’s veto and it had to go to the ballot for peole to vote and they voted that mess down, like they always do. I am appalled!

  9. marc Says:
    July 4th, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    can’t wait for our society to fall, hope i’m alive to witness the spectacle…americans sure are great in their own minds

  10. frequentwind Says:
    July 5th, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    Nice reporting, but it would have helped if you had mentioned Parker’s history of (a) anger issues (2005, punching traffic agent; 2009, punching NY Post photographer and breaking his camera), and (b) blaming racism when he doesn’t get his way (2010, tirade during confirmation hearing. Even Diaz said he “needed help.” )

  11. AnonyGrl Says:
    July 5th, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    I think Parker is probably more annoyed that he didn’t get his two minutes of air time. What the deal was that prevented that, I don’t know, but frankly, I am sure his reasons for voting were fine, and neither I, nor anyone else there, needed to hear them at that time.

    As to getting the vote done for 11pm, I would have been heartily in favor, had I been consulted. I had been there all week, and was ready for it to be DONE already, after a full week of stalling. That it was done for news coverage does not bother me at all. And I would guess that if Parker had been allowed to say his piece, he wouldn’t have made the news anyway, so he really needs to get over this one.

  12. Nikitadell Says:
    July 6th, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    Cuomo certainly has his priorities in order. I sat up here with an expired lease and no rent protection while he wasted time on the REALLY important issue of gay marriage.

  13. Roger Says:
    July 9th, 2011 at 6:24 am

    This story validates much of what we referred to in the online article “Is Cuomo Ignoring the Evidence Against Gay Marriage?” ( http://www.scribd.com/doc/54881192/Is-Cuomo-Ignoring-the-Evidence-Against-Gay-Marriage-Updated ).

    It illustrates 27 INITIAL reasons … 17 explicitly stated … why America and New Yorkers will still reject “gay marriage” in 2011 and onwards!

    The REAL “Atrocity in Albany” was that Alesi, Grisanti and Saland … as indeed all Senate members … were in possession of the facts before the vote!

    33 Senators, and Governor Cuomo, and Mayor Bloomberg … ignored the evidence!

  14. Dan Says:
    July 22nd, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    For those of us watching this event this is no surprise. Cuomo and his staff, as well as several others, made a major push and ignored, possibly violated senator’s rights, and created a serious hazard (locking the doors when a room is full of people, thereby preventing them from exit in case of a fire, a violation of state fire laws) is inexcusable.

    I can understand some people being upset with this, I know I am. I also see where people would be in favor of it. But is it right, fair, and honorable to have so many violations occur because of a vote? I don’t care what the issue is that is being voted on, such disregard for the rights and safety of those present just unacceptable.

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