State Senator Calls Rival a ’Puppet of Rich Gay Fanatics’
New York State Sen. Hiram Monserrate may have become the first New York state senator to be kicked out of that august body since the 1920s on ethical violations in the wake of a domestic abuse episode, but supporters of his bid to re-take the seat he lost by winning the special election seem to prefer violence against women to marriage equality.
As reported at EDGE on Feb. 25, Monserrate’s campaign is the first to draw the attention and funds of a new group, Fight Back New York, which is financed in part, by The Gill Action Fund, a GLBT political fund established by Denver, Colorado-based billionaire businessman Tim Gill. The new group invites equality-minded New Yorkers to "get even" instead of stewing about the results of a Senate vote late last year on a bill that would have extended marriage equality to the state’s gay and lesbian families. In the vote, legislators who had previously vowed their support deserted the cause of marriage equality and cast their votes against the bill; Monserrate was one such lawmaker, and the LGBT community may be willing to contribute to the new group to see that Monserrate pays.
"Hiram Monserrate is one of the 38 State Senators who voted no on the marriage equality bill on December 2, 2009," reads text at the Web site of Empire State Pride Agenda, a New York-based GLBT equality organization. "Not only did he vote no, but he broke his previous commitment to support marriage equality when it came to the Senate floor for a vote," the text continues.
"Monserrate was convicted last year of assaulting his girlfriend, which led to his recent expulsion from the State Senate. But now he’s running to try to get back into the Senate," the text adds. "Our candidate in the March 16 Special Election is popular Assemblymember Jose Peralta, who has consistently voted in favor of marriage equality, transgender civil rights and other important LGBT issues." The site goes on to encourage readers to donate, declaring, "This is our first chance to replace an anti-LGBT Senator with a strong, pro-LGBT Senator. Every dollar that you contribute will go to making sure this shameful legislator does not return to the State Senate.
"If you’re mad about the December 2 marriage vote, now is the time to get even," the text reads. "Join us in taking out Hiram Monserrate and electing Jose Peralta."
"Politicians who deny gays and lesbians basic equality should be thrown out of office, starting with convicted criminal Hiram Monserrate," the Gill Action Fund’s Bill Smith said. Smith is acting as an adviser to Fight Back New York, reported a New York Times article from Feb. 24. The new group is set to mail out fliers to voters that show frames from security video capturing Monserrate’s assault against Giraldo, accompanied by text reading, ""He brutally assaulted a woman and tried to cover up his crime. Now he has the nerve to run again. Many of us have voted for Hiram before. But we cannot vote for him again."
The article notes that the Gill Action Fund helped Democrats pick up two Senate seats in the 2008 elections, and reports that the new PAC has not yet determined which senators it will support and which it will seek to replace in the coming elections.
The 38-24 vote that dealt defeat for New York marriage equality came in the wake of a Proposition 8-style ballot referendum in Maine that saw voters rescind marriage equality there. The measure had been approved three times in the New York Assembly, but a Senate vote was delayed interminably, with Gov. David Paterson recalling the Senate time and again for special sessions to sort out not only the marriage question, but also budgetary matters. Although New York honors marriages between spouses of the same gender that are granted in other jurisdictions, the state does not as yet grant marriage equality locally to its gay and lesbian residents.
Courting the Anti-Gay Fringe
Churchgoers in Queens were handed leaflets encouraging them to vote for Monserrate in the upcoming special election instead of voting for Assemblyman Jose Peralta, whom the leaflet’s text accused of being affiliated with "a group of megarich gay fanatics dedicated to destroying out way of life and creating same-sex marriage."
Responded Peralta, "This flyer is just another example of how Hiram Monserrate thrives on bullying and hate-mongering," the New York Daily News reported in a March 8 article.
The article also reported that Monserrate had drawn criticism for using the same logo and slogan, "Yes We Can!," that Barack Obama use don the campaign trail in 2008. Linda Tran, a spokesperson for the Obama campaign, said, "The use of the logo is neither approved nor supported by Organizing for America. The campaign did not seek nor do they have permission to use it. We are asking them to remove it from their materials."
Moreover, Monserrate has made marriage equality a signature issue in his push to reclaim the seat that he lost when the state senate voted to expel him. New York Daily News columnist Elizabeth Benjamin noted on March 8 that the leaflet is "part of the expelled ex-lawmaker’s continued effort to ride an evangelical wave back to his Senate seat in the special election that is being held on March 16." Benjamin also noted that the leaflet claims Peralta is called "the gay caballero" by GLBT constituents.
"Could this flyer be a fake?" wondered The Village Voice’s Roy Edroso in a March 8 article. "It’s a little raw, but it conforms to his strategy as we’ve seen it: Monserrate has accepted the aid of a gay-unfriendly prelate [Reverend Ricardo Reyes, a identified in a Village Voice article from March 5] and he continues to defend his own anti-gay-marriage vote in the state senate as a ’vote of conscience.’ " Added Edroso, "Maybe, like Roy Ashburn, he thinks that just reflected the will of his constituency. After the March 16 special election, we guess, we’ll see if it does."
Monserrate’s cozying up to anti-gay clergy like Reyes--who came out with the statement, ""I have seen a generation of children sunk down by the gay community," and declared that homosexuality is "a problem of the spirit"--and focus on GLBT issues left New York Magazine wondering, "Is Hiram Monserrate Just Running Against Gay People Now?," the headline of a March 4 article. Though Monserrate may have been targeted by Fight Back New York, the article noted, "Fighting a political group out to get you is one thing. Standing quietly by when someone at one of your own rallies says that a minority group has ’a problem of the spirit’ and is targeting children (!) is quite another."