In today’s New york Times, Bill Keller profiles the four New York Republican senators who bucked their party and voted in favor of marriage equality, providing the bill with the support it needed to become law. All four seem are vulnerable re-election but as Keller concluded, “if they lose, it is likely to be in spite of their marriage vote, not because of it.”
The three senators who spoke with the former executive editor — Roy J. McDonald, Jim Alesi, Mark Grisanti — all stood by their votes, which have aroused only limited ire from the Conservative Party (a powerful third-party in state politics whose endorsement can make or break a Republican candidacy) and constituents. “I did what I thought was right,” McDonald said, predicting that voters “understand that,” and are looking to focus on “jobs and foreclosures, not marriage.” He boldly announced that “if doing the right thing costs him his seat, ‘They can take the job and shove it.’” Alesi and Grisanti were no less direct. Grisanti framed marriage as an issue of equal civil rights — “I swore with my hand on the Bible to uphold the Constitution, I didn’t swear with my hand on the Constitution to uphold the Bible” — and Alesi reflected that “wherever I end up, we’ll have marriage equality in New York State.” “There isn’t anything you can point to in a political career, if you’re just looking over the years you served, that you can say was as big as this,” he added.
Indeed, in a sign of the growing acceptance of marriage equality, even the Conservative Party has rebranded the marriage vote as a question of “integrity,” not policy, arguing that “it wasn’t so much that Grisanti had voted for marriage….It’s that when he changed his mind he should have announced that to voters and then submitted himself to another election before casting such an important vote.” Conservatives sought to find “nonmarriage reasons” to dump both Grisanti and Alesi:
When I met with [Alesi], his mood verged on fatalism. The club his enemies would use to pummel him, he surmised, would not be gay marriage but a loopy episode known in his district as “the lawsuit.” Back in 2008, Alesi was exploring houses for sale in a new development called Trolley Brook Estates. Finding one house locked, he went in the basement door. The house was still under construction, so he climbed up a ladder being used as a makeshift stairway, fell and injured his leg. It turned out this house had already been sold, but the owners agreed not to press trespassing charges. Then last year, a day before the statute of limitations was set to expire, Alesi sued the homeowners, a retired couple, for his injuries. [...]
After Mass I drove around Alesi’s district and was struck by two things: first, most people I spoke to knew the name of their state senator, which — trust me — is nowhere close to normal. And second, the prevailing popular view was admiration and shared pride that a politician had not followed the path of least resistance. I found people who disagreed with his vote, and a few who said they might hold it against him in November.
With support for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the same-sex marriage running high, most state politicos dismiss the influence of anti-gay groups like the National Organization for Marriage, which has promised to spend $2 million to defeat the four Republican senators. “I think they’re full of smoke,” Thomas D. Cook, chairman of the Monroe County party organization said, suggesting that their anti-gay message is resonating with few voters.