I figured it was a good time to write more than 140 characters because it’s not every day that your home state makes civil rights history.
Y’know, considering that I’m not gay and have no plans to be gay in the future, I’m pretty jazzed about this gay marriage vote in New York state. I might even have jazz hands. Jazz hands!
And yet, I haven’t been invited to any gay weddings or gotten any save-the-dates so far. This is debilitating news because 1) they will be good parties, 2) I imagine they will be “the thing” to be at this summer, and 3) it’s common knowledge in New York that gay men maintain a deep bench of adorable girl friends. (And the gay male endorsement of the straight male friend may just surpass the parental stamp of approval these days.)
Much has been said by now about the overall vote, the well-coordinated, months-long effort to see it come to fruition, and the exuberant celebrations, so I won’t focus much on those aspects.
Instead, I’m going to point out a few things that are awesome, telling, or (if I’m lucky) incisive about this fabulous! legislation.
Let’s start with telling. In the wake of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signing the bill into law, there are still nay-sayers out there.
These opponents of same-sex marriage raise flimsy arguments to “justify” their stance.
It’s really stupid when they say things like, “What’s next, marrying a hamster or a trout? Maybe a red-tailed hawk or a duck-billed platypus?” Yeah, jackass, that’s what’s next. Because gays and lesbians (aka other human beings) really appreciate being compared to self-unaware animals.
Or, take some choice moments from the PBS NewsHour segment below, in which (openly gay) Democratic New York Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell and Maggie Gallagher, co-founder and chair of the National Organization for Marriage, are jointly interviewed about the New York law.
Whereas O’Donnell talks about themes of justice and fairness, Gallagher talks about voter vengeance and how the “yay” voters committed political suicide. Around the 5:30 mark, you can see how she harps on how vindicative the party and voters will be towards the four Republican state senators who voted for the bill, how they sold out their base for dumb politics, and how questions in polls on the issue are asked and worded.
People like Gallagher say those state senators make themselves politically vulnerable to do this. Maybe. But it’s morally vulnerable not to.
Okay, now let’s jump to the potentially incisive.
With a major triumph like this, there has been revitalized, intoxicating talk of an amped-up movement (a rave, if you will) of gay marriage spreading to other states.
Clearly, New York, beyond being one of the largest states, has a larger impact on culture, media, and finance, than any other, save arguably, California.
After he signed the bill into law, Governor Cuomo said:
“What this state said today brings this discussion of marriage equality to a new plane. That’s the power and beauty of New York. The other states look to New York for the progressive direction and what we said today was you look to New York once again because New York made a powerful statement, not only for the people of New York, but for the people across this nation. We reached a new level of social justice this evening.”
I’m on board with the last part. However, I’m not sure how this latest victory will affect progress towards wider acceptance. And there is a long way to go. When the law in New York goes into effect on July 24, there will be six states and Washington, D.C. that issue same-sex marriage licenses in the U.S. On the flip side, “Twenty-nine states have constitutional bans on same-sex marriage, while 12 others have laws against it.”
New York is not the bellwether of the country, it is the provocateur. A progressive, ahead-of-its-time (or right-on-time, with others lagging behind) territory.
President Obama during his press conference Wednesday made favorable statements with regards to LGBT rights nationally (“I think we’re moving in a direction of greater equality and — and I think that’s a good thing”) and same-sex marriage in New York (“What happened in New York last week, I think, was a good thing”).
So, he is edging closer, beyond merely saying that his views are “evolving.” I have been watching this issue for a while, and said that I think he has to do what is politically expedient on this issue to get reelected, though there is a case to be made that endorsing it before the 2012 vote could help him. Chuck Todd and Brian Williams raised that possibility during their post-conference banter.
Most people’s political stances “evolve” in days, weeks, and months. Obama’s may be moving at the pace of actual evolution: over thousands of years.
It seems mighty evident to me at this point that he is for same-sex marriage, but does not want to shake things up yet. Still, if you were a one-issue, anti-gay marriage voter, would you vote for Obama based on what he said Wednesday?
Given all this, instead it seems that when the Prop 8 lawsuit in California, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, goes to the Supreme Court, as it appears destined to, only then will we see a risky and defining moment that is the most likely route for same-sex marriage to go national. I suppose I’m okay with that, except for the fact that Arnold is somehow connected.
Now, the awesome.
Has any state senator’s vote been more for the right reasons than the four Republican state senators who voted for this same-sex marriage law?
This vote might cost them their jobs. But James Alesi, Mark Grisanti, Roy McDonald, and Stephen Saland are so legit, they don’t care if next time around at the ballot box voters force them to quit. (Thanks for bearing with me on that one.)
These are not exciting guys, not conventionally inspiring… and that’s why they are.
The explanations behind why they voted the way they did are invigorating and instructive. What follows is a survey of their comments:
“I believe very strongly that it is OK to be Republican and embrace equality.”
“I think if a Republican state senator who comes from conservative roots can support marriage equality, and I will be running in the same year as President Obama, President Obama can support marriage equality, and if he doesn’t support marriage equality, then that would be a major disappointment.”
Go for the comments, stay for the bongo drum:
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“It’s time for me in my life, when I am given the opportunity, to take the opportunity to vote for something I believe in my heart is right. We don’t get that opportunity very often.”
“This becomes a matter of equality for people, our sons and daughters, [who] deserve the same freedom and the same equality in this great country and in the state of New York that each of every one of us enjoy in our everyday life.”
“I believe that if you live in America and if you expect equality and freedom for yourself, that you have to extend it to other people.”
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“I just probably committed political suicide.“
“If I take the Catholic out of me, which is hard to do, then absolutely they should have these rights.”
“It has nothing to do with politics. It has to do with my own personal belief.”
“I apologize for those who feel offended. I cannot deny a person, a human being, a taxpayer, a worker, the people of my district and across this state, the State of New York, and those people who make this the great state that it is the same rights that I have with my wife.”
“You get to the point where you evolve in your life where everything isn’t black and white, good and bad, and you try to do the right thing. You might not like that. You might be very cynical about that. Well, fuck it, I don’t care what you think. I’m trying to do the right thing. I’m tired of Republican-Democrat politics. I’m tired of blowhard radio people, blowhard television people, blowhard newspapers. They can take the job and shove it. I come from a blue-collar background. I’m trying to do the right thing, and that’s where I’m going with this.”
“I’m trying to do the right thing. I’m basically a father, a grandfather of two disabled grandsons. You try to be a good person. You try to respect all the arguments and review it. Now we can move on.”
“I’m not out to alienate anybody. This is driven by compassion. I’m not out to hurt some gay guy, gay woman. Live your lifestyle. That’s not my lifestyle, but God bless ‘em — it’s America. Be nice to people, and let’s all just live our lives.”
“I’m not one of these guys that lives and dies, at this age of my life, for politics. I’ve accomplished more than the average guy around here. I’m going to go and see my family when I leave here. I’m going to go, turn around, and if I get out of politics I’ll be a professional like I’ve been in the past. I’ll make money. My grandchildren will have money to help them through the problems they have. I’ll go play golf, see my wife and spend time with my three kids and grandkids.”
“Am I comfortable with my vote? It’s changed. I was raised in a conservative household. Would my parents be OK with my vote? Yes. The only thing they would require of me is do the right thing. Do what you think is appropriate. That’s it.”
“You realize people in circumstances aren’t what you think they’re going to be, and you develop some sensitivity.”
“I have, as many people are aware, certainly struggled over this issue. It has been an extremely difficult issue to deal with. But I can say my intellectual and emotional journey has ended here today. And I have to define doing the right thing as treating all persons with equality and that equality includes within the definition of marriage.”
“Struggling with my traditionalist view of marriage and my deep rooted values to treat all people with respect and as equals, I believe after much deliberation, I am doing the right thing in voting to support marriage equality.”
(He also gives a folksy interview with some local reporters here.)
What these men are saying is it’s not about political life, it’s about real life. And real life matters more.
This is what politics is all about, should be about. Not being political.
They rebuffed the expedience of staying in office. That’s decidedly un-Machiavellian.
All year long in the U.S. Capitol and statehouses around the country, we hear blowhards and blowhardesses talk in circles. They rarely achieve anything of lasting consequence.
Our elected officials hold jobs in which they are essentially exempt from performance metrics in order to stay employed. They can miss votes. They don’t even have to introduce bills. They’re answerable to us only after specific, relatively long intervals.
These can be cushy jobs, if that is what the officeholder desires. This is aside from the fact that it’s hard work to continuously appear as if you are doing something while not actually doing anything. Yes, most officials are busy not solving the problems of the day.
Isn’t the selfish allure of public office supposed to be to exert your power and influence? Most don’t. Paradox.
Yet they like staying in office: they’ll usually do anything to stick around.
This exposition serves to make the risk, action, and defiant morality of these four GOP officials all the more impressive.
They will definitely get invited to more gay weddings than me.