Those Republicans who backed same-sex marriage deserve some support
The gays need to get it in gear. Their friends do, too.
I say this as a supporter of same-sex marriage and as someone who is planning to have one.
Those of us who are proud of New York State for extending marriage rights to many more of its citizens should not sit back and wait for the 2011 law"s supporters to be defeated. That"s especially the case with the four Republican state senators who provided critical support last summer, when New York became the sixth state to allow same-sex marriage. With billboards targeting these Republicans in their districts, gay and lesbian activists have even more reason to provide support to a few brave and thoughtful legislators.
Their names are Mark J. Grisanti of Buffalo, James S. Alesi of Rochester, Stephen M. Saland of Poughkeepsie and Roy J. McDonald of Saratoga County. They may or may not all face primary challenges, but this would be a good time for progressives to pay attention, especially given that these Republicans have done more for same-sex marriage than an allegedly Democratic president.
Saland was key. He"s my favorite, both because of his long, winding, contemplative and eventually thrilling speech on the Senate floor and the corner of Dutchess County he represents. (I"m in love with everything from gritty Poughkeepsie up to yuppie Rhinebeck.) In his big Friday-night speech, Saland evoked everything from the legal minutiae of an earlier bill to the values his parents taught him. He clearly wanted to be on the right side of history.
Now Saland and others are under attack within their own party from conservatives. Well, I"d call them extremists, but maybe you can"t go by me. Personally, I think same-sex marriage is a conservative reality, providing for more stable families and a stronger foundation for society.
Not everyone agrees. There"s a particularly gross organization called the National Organization for Marriage that is apparently backing these billboards's or at least the one in Rochester targeting Alesi. It"s especially mortifying to see these Republicans attacked because one of the electrifying things about last summer"s vote was watching Democrats and Republicans working together on legislation.
They talked, they wrestled, they negotiated. A few candid legislators came up against the narrowness of their own ideology and dared to think differently. This little thing called legislating should be encouraged in New York State's and then FedExed to Washington, D.C.
Granted, I"m not used to worrying about the prospects for re-election of Republican legislators. But apparently I"m not alone. Last week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other big-time donors gathered in Manhattan for a fundraiser. The group planned to raise an estimated $900,000, which would be shared by the Republican Four. At least that"s the word from the New York Times.
Reporting on the fat cats is fun, but small donations matter, too. Elections past have taught us all how little numbers add up and how the Internet can be a key tool in netting funds. We"ve also seen examples of activists not doing nearly enough. Exhibit A: the high-profile loss by Democrats in the congressional district of former Rep. Anthony Weiner. Same-sex marriage supporters seemed not to have lifted a finger for the dull Democrat candidate, Assemblyman David Weprin, who lost the seat to Republican Bob Turner.
Activists look to the future. That"s kind of why they"re activists. And that"s swell. But it"s important sometimes to look to the past, too's especially the recent past's and to demonstrate a little gratitude. Especially in a political culture that too often rewards anger's as if it"s the only emotion available to voters.
Christopher Moore is a writer who lives in Manhattan. He can be reached by email at email@example.com and is on Twitter (@cmoorenyc).
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