Hurrah! New York has, at long last, decided to join the twenty-first century and recognize the right of same-sex couples to civil marriage.
Make no mistake: this is a Big Deal. With the exception of Iowa, New York is the first state outside of the New England region to marry queers; it’s also the most populous. What a relief to end this embarrassing episode in history, when the Sodom and Gomorrah of the world lagged behind Catholic strongholds like Portugal, Mexico City, Spain, Argentina and Brazil in supporting marriage equality.
Congratulations, first of all, go to Assemblyman Daniel J. O’Donnell, the primary hero of this story. He sponsored the bill and has led this fight for the past decade, alongside Tom Duane in the Senate. Senator Jim Alesi, the first Republican senator to support the bill, deserves a ton of credit for being the first to cross over from his side of the aisle. So does Senator Roy McDonald for following soon thereafter. Kudos to the Empire State Pride Agenda, the Human Rights Campaign and the rest of the New Yorkers United for Marriage coalition for pushing the issue.
Warmest regards and best wishes to all of the same-sex couples that have been waiting until New York state legalizes same-sex marriage to tie the knot here. Could this mean you too, David Tyree? O how New England safety Rodney Harrison clung to you during that dramatic fourth quarter Superbowl XLII catch! It’s nothing to be ashamed of, boys. Bless you both.
But that’s where my congratulations end. Because I have limited patience for narratives about political courage or “conversions” or bipartisanship when it comes to most long-time opponents flipping, especially when polls clearly indicated they had nothing to lose. New York’s politicians have been playing political football with same-sex marriage since the ’90s. The fact that just enough of them finally calculated that it’s to their political advantage to kick us over the goal post is no reason to start lauding the human spirit.
I’m particularly disgusted by all the pols who participated in that long, drawn-out dog and pony show that featured self-professed “religious” legislators from both sides of the aisle covering their asses by pretending that the bill, which already included religious exemptions, needed yet more of them. No one’s forcing religious institutions that oppose same-sex marriages to perform them—every religion will still be permitted to set its own requirements for who can be married within that faith tradition. Or, as Karen Loewy, a senior staff attorney at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, explains: “Everyone agrees that religious institutions have complete autonomy to decide which marriages to solemnize and celebrate, and the bill already reiterates those protections.”