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Wheeling and dealing
Author: Raine    Date: 06/27/2011 13:29:42

By now you know, New York became the 5th (6th if one includes Washington DC) and largest state to recognize marriage equality. As expected, the Clergy and conservative groups have expressed dismay and outrage. The Washington Times reports:
The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is pledging $2 million to “make sure that New York Republicans understand that voting for gay marriage has consequences,” said Mr. Brown, adding that NOM will also push for a constitutional amendment to allow the people of New York to vote on marriage.
While such outrage was expected, both sides fail to see that Governor Andrew Cuomo actually expected this and dealt with it before the law was passed. This is the stuff that politics are made of. A few weeks ago, Cuomo had high level members of his administration meet with a few very very rich Republican donors:
It sounded improbable: top Republican moneymen helping a Democratic rival with one of his biggest legislative goals.

But the donors in the room — the billionaire Paul Singer, whose son is gay, joined by the hedge fund managers Cliff Asness and Daniel Loeb — had the influence and the money to insulate nervous senators from conservative backlash if they supported the marriage measure. And they were inclined to see the issue as one of personal freedom, consistent with their more libertarian views.

Within days, the wealthy Republicans sent back word: They were on board. Each of them cut six-figure checks to the lobbying campaign that eventually totaled more than $1 million.
Also from the article was this:
By the time a Catholic bishop from Brooklyn traveled to Albany last week to tell undecided senators that passing same-sex marriage “is not in keeping with the will of their people,” it was clear the church had been outmaneuvered by the highly organized same-sex marriage coalition, with its sprawling field team and, especially, its Wall Street donors.
So it is interesting that the NY Daily news had an article where the NYS Catholic Dioceses expressed outrage and deep concern about the legislation:
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, of the diocese of Brooklyn, called on all Catholic schools to reject any honor bestowed upon them by Gov. Cuomo, who played a pivotal role in getting the bill passed.

He further asked all pastors and principals to "not invite any state legislator to speak or be present at any parish or school celebration."

"This is a further erosion of the real understanding of marriage," DiMarzio told the Daily News. "The state should not be concerned about regulating affection."
In this case as well, the legislation was written so that Churches and religious organizations are actually ALLOWED to discriminate. There is a religious exemption in the law. In my opinion, as horrible as it may be for a religion to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, it is still a matter of separation of Church and State. It does of course open up an entire new can of worms with regard to health care and say, Catholic Hospitals, and charities -- so there is still work to be done, but for now, the law says that the Church can refuse to recognize marriage in their churches, should they choose. Making that choice really puts those particular Churches in a bad light; regardless of the law. What happened in NYS over the weekend changes everything. From Reuters:
The new law's impact can be measured in part by the numbers at play: New York is home to more than 42,000 same-sex couples, according to an analysis of U.S. census data conducted by the Williams Institute. This means, among other things, that the number of same-sex couples living in states allowing same-sex marriage has more than doubled overnight.
The numbers matter. Having doubled the amount of LGBT people eligible to marry makes the foundation for DOMA even more unstable. People will expect to have the same rights as they do in the states or district they are married in. The 14th amendment says just that in it's equal protection clause:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
I know that many people want Obama to be more forceful in dealing with LGBT rights. He's has done a lot, but there is more to do. The President can lawfully only do so much and right now the political will in Congress to overturn DOMA is not there. That's why the decision to not defend it in the courts is important. Andrew Cuomo is just a governor, he had the resources as such to make sure this bill was crafted and passed the way it was. The NYS Senate does not operate the way the United States Senate does. Take a look at what Yglesias writes over at think progress:
Still, I would say that the bigger difference isn’t so much about the leadership style as it is that Cuomo won. Suppose that the New York State Senate operated according to the rules of the United States Senate and a bill failed unless it secured a 60 percent supermajority. What would people be saying about Andrew Cuomo now? Well, it seems to me that many people would be castigating his failed leadership. Instead of Michael Barbaro’s account of his behind-the-scenes leadership reading like a virtuouso performance it would be reading like a story of a failed inside game. The meeting with high-dollar pro-equality Republican donors would seem not savvy, but naive and weak. Conversely, if the US Senate operated on a 50 vote rule, then both the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank bill would have gone further in advancing progressive priorities, there would have been more economic stimulus in the 111th Congress, the DREAM Act would have passed, and it’s conceivable that some kind of nationwide carbon pricing scheme would be in place.

Which is just to say that political institutions matter, a lot. Getting concurrent majorities in two legislative houses, as Cuomo did, is very hard. Getting a 60 percent supermajority is harder.
I'm not sure the President has the resources to work the way Cuomo did, but by not defending DOMA and letting the states take the lead it will only be a matter of time before it is repealed and we will have marriage equality for all on a federal level. It's either that or it goes to the Supreme court, and there are a LOT of precedents there for it to be overturned. The 14th Amendment is just one example -- as seen in the SCOTUS case Loving V. Virginia. Even then, sadly -- it wasn't until 2000 when Alabama finally repealed laws barring interracial couples the right to marry. There is a long way to go, but I believe on this issue, we are on our way. Having doubled the amount of equality is a very big deal. Having it passed thru legislative means is an even bigger deal.

Sometimes, playing hard-nosed politics is the way to get it done. What happened in NYS might not have been pretty, but after nearly a decade, it happened. Pretty or not, it is better than inequality.



54 comments (Latest Comment: 06/28/2011 01:36:30 by Raine)
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