Why New York Matters

Jun 24 2011 @ 11:12pm

The fact that New York State has just become the sixth (plus DC!) to grant gay citizens the civil right to marry is a BFD. I say that having observed and participated in this process for two decades.

It's a BFD because a Republican-led State Senate passed this law. Yes, the partisanship is massively lop-sided, but the conversion of a few Republicans is what will have made this possible. Weddingaisle The credit for that goes to one of the most determined, consistent, professional and impassioned campaigns we have ever fought for marriage equality. Going outside traditional Democratic party lobbies to appeal to those on the other side who are open to our arguments was essential. Yes, Tim Gill, take a bow, wherever you are. Bill Smith, you remain my hero. Governor Cuomo, by all accounts was magnificent at the politics and Mayor Bloomberg and critical Republicans and Democrats and all factions and groups in the gay movement – even HRC! – pulled together. That the most passionate opponent was a Democrat and the most powerful were Republicans helps scramble the attempt by the Christianist right to coopt conservatism for their reactionary theology.

It's a BFD because it also insists on maximal religious liberty for those who conscientiously oppose marriage equality. A gay rights movement that seeks to restrict any religious freedom is not worthy of the name. And it makes me glad that we largely avoided anything that looks like that strategy, and that last-minute negotiations were flexible enough to strengthen the protections for religious groups, churches, mosques, synagogues and the like. The gay rights movement is about expanding the boundaries of human freedom – and that must include religious freedom if it is to mean anything. We have come such a long way from the 1980s when religious groups were always seen as enemies, rather than as potential allies.

It's a BFD because the public leadership of this campaign was heterosexual.

By all accounts, governor Cuomo has been a magnificently crafty, determined, clear and decisive supporter. Mayor Bloomberg, who just lost his beloved mother, also used his influence with Republicans to move the needle. Cuomo's national reputation and potential career in national politics will be enhanced by this – a sign of how radically the political landscape has changed.

It's a BFD because it doubles the number of Americans with the right to marry the person they love, even if they are gay. That is one hell of a fact on the ground. It will almost certainly help in California. It will reveal even more profoundly that this does not mean the end of civilization, but is, more prosaically, a modest reform to strengthen the family, integrate the marginalized and enlarge our moral universe. And it cannot now be undone.

(Re-written from the original post from last Monday.)