Thursday, December 03, 2009

New York Senate rejects same-sex marriage

Well, yes, this is a bad defeat for the forces of good:

The New York State Senate decisively rejected a bill on Wednesday that would have allowed gay couples to wed, providing a major victory for those who oppose same-sex marriage and underscoring the deep and passionate divisions surrounding the issue.

The 38-to-24 vote startled proponents of the bill and signaled that political momentum, at least right now, had shifted against same-sex marriage, even in heavily Democratic New York. It followed more than a year of lobbying by gay rights organizations, who steered close to $1 million into New York legislative races to boost support for the measure.

Senators who voted against the measure said the public was gripped by economic anxiety and remained uneasy about changing the state's definition of marriage.

"Certainly this is an emotional issue and an important issue for many New Yorkers," said Senator Tom Libous, the deputy Republican leader. "I just don't think the majority care too much about it at this time because they're out of work, they want to see the state reduce spending, and they are having a hard time making ends meet. And I don't mean to sound callous, but that's true."

The defeat, which followed a stirring, tearful and at times very personal debate, all but ensures that the issue is dead in New York until at least 2011, when a new Legislature will be installed.

The issue may be dead in New York for now, with "political momentum" seemingly against change, but there's a silver lining here, which is that the vote may simply have been a sign of the economically depressed moment. Not that a high-ranking Republican interpreted the result as a vote against change at "a hard time." Of course, that may just be an easy excuse for those who oppose same-sex marriage generally, but it must be noted that supporters of the bill thought they had enough votes for passage, which means that some of those who voted against it may indeed have done so for reasons other than opposition to same-sex marriage. Republicans were unanimously against it, but eight Democrats voted no as well. Move those Democrats to the other side and the measure passes 32-30. In other words... maybe, just maybe, a vote at a different time -- say, shortly after the 2011 elections -- will yield a different result.

Besides, as Think Progress notes, "[a] recent Marist poll found that 51 percent of New Yorkers support legalizing same-sex marriage and just 42 percent oppose it." That's pretty decisive, even if, for the time being, the momentum in the Legislature seems to be pointing the other way.

This is a disappointing setback, but the fight for marriage equality ain't over, and it's pretty clear, I think, that New York will eventually legalize same-sex marriage, and probably in the not-too-distant future. The momentum in American society, after all, both in New York and elsewhere, is heading in that direction, and, while there will continue to be setbacks, along with fierce opposition from the other side, change is coming.

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