Late Friday night, four days after its legislative session was to have gone into recess, the New York Senate voted 33-29 to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples. The margin of passage was provided by four Republicans, including at least one who had told constituents during the campaign that he opposed gay marriage.
Three factors contributed to the blow to marriage in New York: money, power and fame. Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg (who said redefining marriage was his first priority!) promised to financially support those who would vote for redefinition but he was only one among many giving “limitless” money to get gay marriage passed, including a group of powerful rich libertarians (see here, here and here). Governor Andrew Cuomo (it was one of his top three priorities!) leveraged the immense political power at his command to make it happen.
The public argumentation, such as it was, amounted to: “All the cool people are doing it.” The Human Rights Campaign assembled videos of celebrities (people who are famous for being famous), some of whom came to Albany to lobby, announcing their support. This collection of the bizarre and beautiful included actors and actresses, fashion designers, athletes, media personalities (like seven-times-married Larry King) and, most prominently, a singer known as Lady Gaga (hopefully she made that name up herself since it would be sad to think of parents so cruel).
All of the debate in the Senate was conducted under “emergency” rules so that the final text of the bill was not even publicly available until a few hours before final passage. When the lone Democratic opponent of the bill tried to ask a question about the stinting religious exemption in the legislation, the Republican carrying water on that part of the legislation refused to yield and answer.
In this sorry spectacle, marriage in New York was radically transformed to valorize adult choices. Alas for New York and for America.