That State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, who represents the very gay-friendly South Fork, as well as the rest of eastern Long Island, has refused to vote yes on a same-sex marriage bill so far this week has, unfortunately, not been a surprise, even if it is deeply disappointing. With the Senate locked in a 31-to-31 stalemate over the issue, Mr. LaValle could have played the hero with a reversal to vote in favor of the measure. That, however, did not appear to be likely as the battle raged on in Albany.
Mr. LaValle is in his fourth decade as a state senator and has rarely faced any real competition. He has not suffered any apparent political harm from the right for his position in favor of civil unions, kind of a marriage half-step that does not guarantee equal protections under the law.
Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., a Sag Harbor resident with an office in Bridgehampton, has been a consistent supporter of same-sex marriage bills and has not had much criticism over his position and is about as popular as ever. Mr. Thiele voted again last week in favor of a measure that is a companion to the one in the State Senate, and angry constituents did not flood his office with complaints.
Mr. LaValle’s opposition to gay marriage comes from his own apparent principle. But his express support of civil unions for gay couples could be interpreted as a contradiction, or perhaps a glimmer of hope, for same-sex marriage advocates. He is usually a compassionate legislator, with particular interest in matters of importance to disabled people and the First District’s older residents. The limits of his empathy are apparent in this matter.
We would have hoped Mr. LaValle would have followed the lead of another Republican state senator, James Alesi, who changed his stance earlier this year, saying, “I believe that if you live in America and you expect equality and freedom for yourself, you should extend it to other people.”
Whether based on his personal belief or not, Mr. LaValle is on the wrong side of this historic debate. We would have hoped that he would reflect the moderate and tolerant views of the majority of people in his district rather than hew to the regrettable line of an era that is rapidly ending.