One Vote Away
It’s been a while since I posted about a new state recognizing same-sex marriages. Right now, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the case in California over Prop 8, is making its way through the courts and nobody wants to upend the chessboard by bringing another ballot initiative during that process. Iowa and four New England states recognize same sex marriages, but none of the largest states do, and that’s where we’ve stood for a while.
That’s probably about to change, maybe this Friday. The New York legislature, notwithstanding the endless opposition of Ruben Diaz, is likely to go the right way. Here’s what I understand to be the scorecard: the Assembly already passed it once and is on board. The Senate has 62 seats. There are 31 votes for the bill announced already — all the Democrats except Diaz, and one Republican. Other Republicans are in a bind: though many of them are personally in favor, and though their constituents may want the bill to go through, they are under tremendous pressure from the Conservative Party. New York, unusually, allows candidates to run on the line for more than one party at a time. Almost all Republicans get the nomination of the Conservative party also, and many Democrats also run on Working Families line. These ballot lines get votes, and many Republicans feel like they would be in danger if the Conservative party withheld its support or even nominated someone else. Their best hope is to keep the bill from getting to the floor. If they could block it, they wouldn’t have to take a vote that will mark them in history as bigots and offend moderate constituents, and wouldn’t have to defy the Conservative Party power brokers.
Their best hope is gone. With the strong urging of Governor Cuomo, the bill is going to the floor. Media reports say that privately most folks in Albany think that if it comes to a roll call, the votes are there. Between voting against equality on the open record and losing Conservative support, many Republicans would rather vote for equality and let the chips fall.
The Deep South and the Midwest can dismiss New York, and dismiss New England, but that’s bravado. The difference will be felt most by the people who gain new legal protections, or course. But the arguments that marriage equality is only imposed by judges start to ring hollow when the most populous state to adopt it does so through the legislature just like it adopts any other law. And as poll after poll shows that the American mainstream has passed the tipping point and supports marriage equality, the prospect of more ballot initiatives like Prop 8 or the one in Maine that stripped people of the rights they won dims — that may continue to work in conservative states, but we’re probably already in a place where marriage equality in moderate states, whether won in the courts or the statehouse, cannot be stripped by referendum.
We’ve all seen these lists that circulate about things that have always been true for the incoming college class. The thing I keep thinking is that when my children become adults, they will always have thought of legal recognition of same sex marriages as the norm instead of the exception.