Saturday, June 25, 2011

New York State Republicans show Obama the way on same-sex marriage

By Richard K. Barry

I'm certainly proud of my home state of New York today, which voted yesterday to legalize same-sex marriage 33 to 29. The measure was able to pass because four members of the Republican majority joined all but one Democrat in the Senate to support the measure.

Of note were comments made by Sen. Mark Grisanti, a GOP freshman from Buffalo, who had been undecided saying that he could not deny anyone basic human rights. He continued by saying that "I apologize to those I offend. But I believe you can be wiser today than yesterday. I believe this state needs to provide equal rights and protection for all its residents."

In changing his vote, GOP Sen. Stephen Saland said that "while I understand that my vote will disappoint many, I also know that my vote is a vote of conscience. I am doing the right thing to support marriage equality."

The legislation was signed last night at 11:55 p.m. by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, and will go into effect in 30 days, which means that same-sex couples will be able to marry in New York by late July.

Currently five states allow same-sex marriage: Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, as well at the District of Columbia.

There would appear to be no greater indication of a sea change on the issue than that only two years ago the New York State Senate, then controlled by Democrats, easily rejected the measure but now a Republican controlled Senate has passed it.

The difference, of course, is that Gov. Cuomo has made this a priority and used his significant resources and political capital to help make it happen.

Of great significance as well is that public opinion is changing. As the New York Times reports:
In 2004, according to a Quinnipiac poll, 37 percent of the state's residents supported allowing same-sex couples to wed. This year, 58 percent of them did.
Just in terms of the raw politics involved, New York is by far the largest state to have passed legislation to recognize same-sex marriage and, as the Times writes, "is home to a large, visible, and politically influential gay community." The implications are huge.

But dozens of other states have constitutional amendments or laws banning same-sex marriage and the issue is sure to be a part of the landscape in the culture wars that have been and will continue to define the 2012 election cycle.

Which, of course, brings us to President Obama, who addressed more than 600 donors at a fund-raiser on Thursday night of the LGBT Leadership Council Gala in New York City, many of whom probably thought they would hear something different from the President given recent reports of his "evolving stance" on marriage equality.

Alas, that was not to be, as he offered only mention of past accomplishments on same-sex equality without in fact getting close to adding marriage to the list.

I do understand politics and I understand that America is a big country with complex national political dynamics, but if Republican legislators can stand up and say that they have decided to support same-sex marriage simply because it is the right thing to do, then the man who promised to bring us hope for a better future should be able to do the same thing.

I'm getting a little tired of this act. When four GOP New York State Senators are out ahead of you, Mr. President, on issues of basic human rights, it's time to stop evolving and start acting. When Republicans decide that they must risk their own political future to do the right thing on something so fundamental, you might want to think again about your own position.

C'mon. Surprise us.

Below is a clip of Sen. Grisanti giving reasons for his changed vote.

(Cross-posted to Lippmann's Ghost.)

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