Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Diane Savino spoke with inspiration, honesty, and courage for gay marriage to earn Wings of Justice

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Originally published on on December 9, 2009

Diane Savino

Gay marriage legislation passed in the New York State Assembly. Despite the passioned speech of New York State Senator Diane Savino, the legislation failed in the Senate. But Savino’s speech lives on as a dynamic example of what is at stake in this fight.

Too much of the information fed to and started by the right-wing elements are filled with lies disguised as scare tactics, from teaching kids the “gay lifestyle” in schools to requiring a church be “forced to” hire a “man who dresses as a woman.”

What makes Savino’s speech of 7 minutes and 33 seconds so powerful is that she strips the issue down to the basics, and she does so with openness, bravery, humor, courage, and emotion.

“This vote is about an issue of fairness and equality, not political. It is about the fairness of people who are of the right age, of sound mind, who choose to live together, share everything together, and want to be able to have the protections that government grant those of us who have the privilege of marriage and treat it so cavalierly in our society.”

Savino opens up about her own situation, going much further than one would normally disclose to friends, much less to a public forum, and ultimately, the Internet.

“I’m over the age of 40, and that’s all you’re going to get from me. But I’ve never been able to maintain a relationship of the length or the quality that (Sen.) Tom Duane and (his longtime partner) Louis (Webre) has. Why should they be denied the right to share their life together?”

By admitting her inability to maintain such a relationship, one could almost win the Wings of Justice just for that level of bravery. But seriously, Savino went on to illustrate the ease of marriage among heterosexuals.

Sen. Savino talked about one unusual lobbying scenario: a guy on a pedicab who approached Savino’s car, and asked her which way she was going to vote on the gay marriage bill. He stuck his head in her car window.

He asked her whether she would vote for the bill. Savino said, “yes.” He said, “But they’re changing the definition of marriage.”

Savino played along with that, noting that even though the two of them just met, they could go down and get married the next day, and “nobody there will ask us about the quality of our relationship or whether we’ve been committed to each other, or any of those things.”

“Do you think we’re ready for that kind of commitment?”

“I see your point.”

The sanctity of marriage doesn’t mean so much if those who can get married don’t appreciate what is at stake.

“We in government don’t determine the quality or the validity of people’s relationships. If we did, we would not issue three-quarters of the marriage licenses we do.”

Savino notes that religions have the right to determine standards, but City Hall doesn’t have that right.

In terms of society, Savino eloquently points to the obsession of women worrying more about the wedding than the marriage. She talks of giving away husbands on game shows, “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” and even a show “The Littlest Groom” where 30 women try to marry a dwarf.

“If there is anything wrong or any threat to the sanctity of marriage in America, it comes from those of us who have the privilege and the right and we have abused it for decades. … We have nothing to fear from people who are committed to each other who want to share their lives and protect one another in the event of sickness, illness, or death. We have nothing to fear from love and commitment. My only hope, Tom, is that we pass this bill and the governor signs it and that we can learn from you, and that you don’t learn from us.”

Savino represents Staten Island, a more conservative area of New York City. But afterwards, she blasted those who were afraid of being re-elected but didn’t vote for legalizing gay marriage.

“They have to examine their own conscience as to why they did this. This is a conscience vote like the death penalty or [reproductive] choice. I never have an issue with people who feel strongly about this from a position of principle. What I do object to is people who voted no for political reasons because they [thought they] couldn’t get reelected in their district — or that the backlash would be too much.”

This fight for equality for gay marriage is only in the early stages. The hope is that there are more people such as Diane Savino who are this passionate in support of gay marriage, and can take that level of warmth and intensity to the fight inside and outside of state legislatures. And even if there aren’t, they can take the inspiration of this video and know that the fight is worth whatever it takes.

By teaching us to truly step outside of our selves to look at the potential impact of gay marriage in our society and to do so with unbelievable openness and honesty, we award Diane Savino our Wings of Justice award this week.


Written by democracysoup

December 9, 2009 at 6:00 am

Posted in gay/lesbian

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