James Alesi, Republican Senator, Chats About Voting For Marriage Equality
Senator James Alesi of the Rochester area voted for the Marriage Equality Act last night. He was one of four Republicans to join 29 Democrats in voting for it. Afterwards, Alesi stood behind Governor Cuomo as he addressed the press. Following the Governor's remarks, we spoke with Alesi in the Hall of Governors, before he sprinted off to witness Cuomo sign the bill into law. Alesi candidly spoke about how when "everyone's praying to the some God -- it kind of kicked it right back at me," while also saying "religion cannot enter into this in any way, shape or form."
Alesi: "It's not our job to be moral, it's our job to be functional as a legislature."
Our conversation after the jump.
Senator, as you went through this process, were there any particular families or couples you encountered that you are thinking about tonight, who will be affected by this change, now that the bill has passed?
Well, of course there are, on both sides of the issue. We had some people who have home schooled their children that came to Albany and were fervently opposed to this, in the most respectful ways, and we had people who came who were very fervently for this. We had people of religious backgrounds, Episcopal priests praying for this, and people from the right praying against this. And I thought, everyone's praying to the some God, so it kind of kicked it right back at me. When you have two preachers praying for different things, I guess it lands right back in your lap.
There was torment on this, not only for me, but for the people who wanted it and for the people who didn't want it.
Is there anyone you're thinking of that were asking you to vote for equality, that you're thinking of tonight, "Wow, this couple or this family can now be married?" Any that pop into mind?
Yes. One couple from where I am - which is Rochester - they had already invited me to their wedding next summer. Some of the advocates that you might know that have been here for a long time, and I've gotten to meet them. Some of them have plans.
For the people that look at marriage from a traditional standpoint, who might feel threatened, or someone who has a family member who is going to be married fairly soon, and they feel that this would diminish the significance of their daughter's wedding, well - they have to work that through themselves. It's not our job to be moral, it's our job to be functional as a legislature. So religion cannot enter into this in any way, shape or form.
Is this something you suspect, when your grandchildren or descendants think of you, that will be the cornerstone of your legacy?
I am 63 years old, and I have no children, so I won't have any grandchildren. But I do have family. I have nieces and nephews and grand-nieces and nephews. I don't know what they'll think. But I do know that as a result of the collective efforts here, they'll grow up in a world that has a broader vision of human freedom.