N.Y. Republicans Put Their Money Where Their Mouth Is
The tides for marriage equality may be changing. The "New York Times" recently reported a coalition of gay rights organizations received a large financial donation from an unlikely source: wealthy donors to the Republican Party. The small, yet highly influential group of donors "represent some of New York's wealthiest and most politically active figures" including heavy GOP donor and hedge fund manager Paul E. Singer, wealthy financier Clifford S. Asness, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. This recent donation by some of the largest GOP backers may provide just the needed spark for the Republican controlled New York Senate to change its stance on marriage equality.
Not only does the recent flood of financial support from conservative GOP funders have the potential to swing votes, it has proven that the fight for marriage equality is no longer a bi-partisan issue. In fact, one of the donors, Asness, believes the notions of limited government and individual liberty, which have typically been associated with conservative thought, support the legalization of same-sex marriage. Marriage equality is a basic freedom, one that Asness and gay rights advocates believe the government should play no part in.
Another donor to the coalition of gay right organizations, Daniel S. Loeb, believes it is important for Republicans to know they will "not be abandoned" for supporting same-sex marriage. Rather, Loeb believes Republicans will have an opportunity to reach a new group of devoted constituents if they support the cause.
According to the "Times", Singer, chairman of the highly conservative Manhattan Institute, is responsible for coordinating much of the Republican fundraising for same-sex marriage in New York. Although Singer's history of generous donations to the Republican Party may make his association with gay rights coalitions atypical, Singer has personal ties to the fight for marriage equality. Singer has a gay son, who married his partner in Massachusetts where same-sex marriage is legal.
Bloomberg has been highly criticized by gay rights advocates for his donations to state Republicans who refuse to support marriage equality. Bloomberg's recent actions, however, may silence some critics. Not only did Bloomberg donate $100,000 of his own funds to support the legalization of same-sex marriage, he recently traveled to Albany to lobby Republican senators on the issue. During his trip to the State Capitol, Bloomberg vowed to support the re-election campaign of any Republican senator who votes to legalize same-sex marriage regardless of where they stand on any other issue.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has also been behind the renewed push for marriage equality in New York. Hoping to get a same-sex marriage bill passed before the legislative session ends June 20, Cuomo has increased his efforts around the state urging New York to "be on the right side of history." In a recently released web video, Cuomo urges state lawmakers to legalize same-sex marriage, stating "indeed New Yorkers have made history, but on the issue of marriage equality, New York has fallen behind."
Cuomo's efforts have spiked awareness of the issue, but Senate Republicans, none of which has ever openly endorsed same-sex marriage, still maintain a majority control of the Senate by a margin of 32-30. Despite the fact the New York State Assembly has passed the same-sex marriage bill a number of times, the bill has yet to receive approval from the state Senate. And, because at least one Senate Democrat is against passing the same-sex legislation, at least three pivotal Republican votes are needed in order to pass the bill into law. In 2009, the measure was defeated by a margin of 38-24, with all Republican Senators and eight Democrats striking down the bill. The large influx of cash from GOP funders, however, may make the 2011 push for marriage equality more fruitful than previous efforts by providing Senate Republicans with just enough incentive to support the legislation.
Even though same-sex couples are unable to legally marry in New York, the state legally recognizes valid same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions since 2008. With that said, New York State Sen. Martin Golden introduced a defense of marriage bill just days after Bloomberg's visit to Albany. If passed, the bill would ban New York from recognizing valid same-sex marriages performed in other states. While the bill does not have an assembly sponsor or a bill memorandum attached, the very introduction of the bill speaks volumes. "I am sending the message that there is some normalcy in this great state when it comes to the principled idea that marriage is between a man and a woman," said Golden, according to the "New York Daily News". Golden, a Republican from Brooklyn, may be expressing his own views rather than those of his constituency. In January, a Quinnipiac University poll showed 56 percent of New Yorkers supported same-sex marriages. Likewise, the latest Siena College poll indicated the percentage of supporters was up to 58 percent, with 65 percent of Democrats and a surprising 45 percent of Republicans believing in marriage equality.
When it comes to the issue of same-sex marriage, New Yorkers are not alone. The most recent Gallup Poll showed 53 percent of Americans were in favor of same-sex marriages, marking the first time ever a clear majority of Americans supported marriage equality. Up from 42 percent in 2004, the Gallup Poll reflects a positive transformation in American attitudes. This on-going trend coupled with concerted efforts of gay rights organizations gives supporters of same-sex marriage a reason to be optimistic. Hence, New York supporters of marriage equality should remain hopeful. Not only have the top financial backers of GOP candidates joined the fight for marriage equality, both Bloomberg and Cuomo have vowed to make legalizing same-sex marriage a priority. Therefore, as long as gay rights advocates continue to voice their concerns and American attitudes continue to shift in favor of marriage equality, equal rights is inevitable. The only question is when.