Friday, June 24, 2011

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, in the NY State Marriage Equality Battle.

First, a heartfelt THANK YOU! To Governor Cuomo for his noble intentions and great efforts on behalf of Equality. His courage, vision and unwavering leadership stand as a national model that will hopefully inspire other elected officials to move from being “politicians” to becoming “statesmen.”

Consider State Sen. Jim Alesi of Rochester, the first Republican senator to express support for same-sex marriage, predicted last week that the measure would pass with 35 votes. Not the bare minimum 32 votes, six of those votes in Senator Alesi’s projected count, would have been Republicans. So, why does it seem that the Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos is choosing kill the bill by political maneuvering?

The “micro” answer is that Michael Long, a majority of Republican State Senators, Archbishop Dolan & Co., and probably the national RNC are applying considerable political pressure in order (among the Republican Party elements) to appeal to their base. On the part of Dolan & Co., it was to appeal to Benedict XVI (and secure future promotions).

The “macro” answer is essentially that Skelos, Long & the Republican Party are driving in a very determined manner, tragically they have their eyes firmly fixed on the rearview mirror and are not looking through the windshield. Politically, this is a strategic error on the part of Republican leadership, since objective poling indicates that Americans now approve of Marriage Equality by 53% (58% in New York state). Furthermore, those polls show a movement in favor of Marriage Equality by 2% to 4% annually.

This posits a serious national problem for the Republican Party, their current strategy might work for one more national election, but after that they will have to do a radical 180-degree course correction on Marriage Equality and other LGBTQ Civil Rights issues. In short, if they kill New York State Marriage Equality legislation, they will squander a credible opportunity to begin making that course correction. An ardent Equality Foe, New York state senator Ruben Diaz said, “gay marriage is inevitable in the State of New York.” Had I been a political consultant to Skelos & Co., I would have advised him to bring the bill to a vote and timed it to occur while the President was delivering yet another of his signature milquetoast speeches at an LGBTQ fundraiser in Manhattan.

In one of life’s delicious ironies, President Barack Obama was speaking at an LGBTQ fundraiser the very night that the New York State Senate Republicans were expected to announce a decision on allowing the Marriage Equality Bill to come up for a vote. Talk about a missed opportunity for the Republicans! Take a moment now to imagine (and enjoy) the frenetic conversations between Obama and his speechwriters as he attempted to calculate the most non-committal and yet “encouraging” speech possible. Reach for an airsickness bag as you read Obama’s statement that Equality legislation should, “Best addressed by the states.” What would you call a politician that made such a statement regarding Jim Crow laws?

Consider Obama's actions on a national Health Care Plan, the two TRILLION dollar wars, the housing/financial crisis, the closing of GITMO in Cuba, his reluctance on ending DADT, hesitation on ENDA and his last hour conversion on DOMA. Winston Churchill's quip about America seems very apt about Obama as well, "Eventually they [he] will do the right thing, but only after they have [he has] exhausted every other option." In my heart, I wish it was President Cuomo instead of Obama, but like a person on a bicycle who sees an Aston Martin drive by, I wish that was mine, but the bicycle will get me were I need to go.

That said, I am not reaching for my checkbook with any enthusiasm or haste and if DADT is not certified by the projected September 2011 date, I will have extra money to spend on gifts this holiday season. I am sure that Obama’s view, and more importantly, his real world actions on, Equality legislation will “evolve.” However, I believe that evolution will reflect objective political polling, and not a personal moral conviction, on the subject. At the end of the day, he is a politician. He may well be of service to Equality, but he is no Joan of Arc, Dr. King, Gandhi or even Abraham Lincoln.

So, what practical lessons have we learned from this circus? The squeaky wheel gets the oil. Stand-up, Speak-out, reward/punish with your vote & checkbook, and perhaps most of all, do not settle for anything less than Equality NOW, or that is what you will get.

1 comment:

Renshaw said...

I think we can be happy. It seems that they have the votes and New York will pass the bill later today, Friday the 24th. I've learned something now. This isn't about gay marriage. That's a wrong phrase. This is about marriage - period! This is about marriage equality. Marriage was once denied to people of different races, even to people of the same race (African Americans!). I am quite happy about my state, and my city (Rochester!). When marriages between two men and/or two women happen and the world does not collapse, people will see that this is right and normal.

Thank you, Geoff, for your words and commitment. Would that this momentum in the Empire State make it to the West Coast and California!