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True Colors

Jim Burroway

June 26th, 2011

The Empire State building was already set to light up in rainbow colors last night in honor of the city’s Pride celebration this weekend, but given that it was the same night on which marriage equality became the law of the state, the new color scheme was given greater significance. And why not light up the night? New York Freedom to Marry notes that the New York victory represents several historic firsts:

  • For the first time, a Republican-led chamber, the New York State Senate, joined the Democrat-led Assembly in passing marriage legislation;
  • The marriage bill was strongly championed by a governor who ran for office on his pledge to pass a bill and then campaigned steadily for it, making it one of his top priorities and committing political capital to its passage;
  • A large number of America’s most prominent businesses including Xerox Corporation, Alcoa, and McGraw-Hill, and the heads of Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and Citigroup, along with New York’s most important labor unions, urged passage of the bill;
  • And numerous professional athletes, including NBA star Steve Nash, New York Rangers star Sean Avery, and New York Giants great Michael Strahan, joined the chairman of the New York Giants and owner of the New Jersey Nets in speaking out for the bill.

While Republican support was neither broad nor deep — only four GOP state Senators voted for the marriage equality bill — it was nevertheless critical and historic. The Republican caucus easily could have blocked the measure from coming to the floor but didn’t. Sen. Dean Skelos, the majority leader of the Republican-controlled chamber who personally voted against the bill, could have refused to allow the bill to come forward, but didn’t. A lot of those GOP Senators who voted against the bill could have prevented its passage in several critical stages along the way, but chose to allow it to pass without their fingerprints on it.

Say what you will about their votes against equality — I’m sure their grandchildren in future decades won’t look at those votes with pride — but I think it bears remembering that marriage equality ended up being the work of the entire chamber, and not just those who voted yes. It’s true that the those who voted yes are the ones who today and in the future deserve to be wrapped in glory. They are the ones who actually made it happen. And those who worked feverishly to prevent marriage equality (I’m looking at you, Diaz) will be scorned by future generations the way we today regard the Dixiecrats of 1948. But the fact remains that sometimes just standing aside so that the rising tide of justice can sweep through is just as important as voting yes. Openly gay Sen. Thomas K. Duane said that everyone in the New York Senate was a hero last night regardless of their vote. I suspect that this is what he was talking about.

Comments

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Stefano A
June 26th, 2011 | LINK

Oh, puhaaaleeeze. Skelos and the other “No” republicans didn’t stand aside because they were being noble, they stood aside because they realized that if they didn’t it would mean the death of the Republican political party in New York.

GreenEyedLilo
June 26th, 2011 | LINK

Yes, yes, yes. I keep feeling like if we’ve got Republican elected officials, professional athletes, and CEOs of large corporations behind us, then the “traditional family” groups are inching ever closer to history’s dustbin where they belong. There’s still lots to do, like passing GENDA, but things feel more like they’re going in the right direction this weekend.

J. Peron
June 26th, 2011 | LINK

You say: “I’m sure their grandchildren in future decades won’t look at those votes with pride.” Coincidentally that is the topic of my current column at Huffington Post.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-peron/new-york-gay-marriage_b_884657.html

MattNYC
June 27th, 2011 | LINK

In one article, it mentioned that Skelos was smiling when the vote tally was announced and the crowd in the gallery was celebrating.

I wrote him a thank-you note for making sure teh vote happened (along with ones to the four who voted yes) and acknowledged that he was walking a fine line. I did (kindly) chide him for voting no, but I think we do have to give credit to them. There were MANY opportunities for them to deny us the vote.

Stefano, you are very wrong about the threat to the party. It’s not at all clear that a block would have cost them the Chamber and it CERTAINLY would not have meant the “death of the Republican political party in New York.” In fact, it is very possible that the vote will cost them control of the Senate, but I think they will hold on.

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