ALBANY — Gay rights advocates from Wall Street to Hollywood poured donations into the coffers of four little-known Republican state senators after the lawmakers provided the decisive votes for same-sex marriage in New York last June, according to new campaign finance filings released on Tuesday.
The support for the four senators, whose votes broke ranks with their party, is seen by gay rights leaders as symbolically important for their movement nationally, because in many states same-sex marriage could become law only with support from Republicans, as well as conservative Democrats. Maryland, New Jersey and Washington State are expected to consider same-sex marriage legislation this year.
The four New York Republicans had been threatened with political retribution by the state’s Conservative Party, and now face possible challenges from both the left and the right, but same-sex marriage supporters had promised to help them politically if they supported the issue.
“It was essential to send a clear signal around the country that we will support those who support equality, irrespective of party,” said Brian Ellner, a senior strategist for the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group. “We were able to win marriage in New York with a bipartisan coalition of fair-minded elected officials. We need to replicate that if we are to keep winning.”
Full disclosure: On June 27, a few days after the marriage bill was signed by Gov. Cuomo, I used links provided by Log Cabin Republicans to donate $50 each (I'm no moneybags) to the four Republican state senators whose support made the difference between victory and defeat for marriage equality in New York: Roy J. McDonald, Stephen M. Saland, Mark Grisanti, and James S. Alesi. That is a roll of honor. I am a Democrat, and I would love to see my party retake control of the New York State Senate, but not at the expense of these four brave men. I also give praise to New York Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos (R), who allowed the bill to come up for a vote. Mitch McConnell, needless to say, would not have acted similarly were he in such a position. (BTW, it ought to be obvious, but I am expressing my personal opinion here. That is what makes this blog different from GLAA's main website. Here we air our personal views. GLAA itself is nonpartisan in its advocacy, and there is extensive evidence to prove it.)
Update: Charlie Watson, in the comments, calls the situation a win-win. If these Republican state senators are defeated in their primaries, it will be by candidates to their right. That will make their seats more winnable in the general election by Democrats, who are likelier to by pro-equality (not a high bar, since these senators are being targeted by NOM and others precisely because they voted for marriage equality).