AFTER THE JUMP: An update on the growing coalition behind marriage equality.
Just who do marriage equality activists have to blow to get gay marriage in New York State?
In the fall of 2009, when we asked that question, the obvious answer was the state Senate Democrats. A marriage equality bill had passed in the Assembly on multiple occasions, and Governor David Paterson was eager to sign it into law. When it finally came up for a Senate vote, it failed when a handful of Democrats and every Republican rejected it.
But now a pair of those “pro-marriage” Democratic Senators won’t be able to vote “no” so easily this time.
The straight one, Hiram Monserrate, was expelled from the chamber after assaulting his girlfriend. The gay one, Carl Kruger, would have a much harder time voting against marriage equality today, now that he’s been dragged kicking and screaming from the closet himself (and charged with corruption and bribery.)
So with slightly better odds in the Senate, a popular new governor quietly pledging to take up marriage equality after the budget was passed, and public opinion on their side, gay marriage activists had to figure out their next step. Who had to get blown first this go around, just for some simple fucking equality?
Apparently they’ve decided it’s each other, as they’ve smartly decided to tackle their own infighting before applying legislative pressure.
If you talk to enough activists, you’ll find that many often think a significant stumbling block to progress is other activists. The way one group organizes can infuriate another. As Cleve Jones told us last year on Harvey Milk’s birthday, after Prop 8 passed “I knew we have an organizing problem. We don’t have a national movement. This is a side effect of the state-by-state strategy.” As gay rights groups fight different battles in different states, there is often little coordination, momentum or learning shared between them.
But this is even true within New York state, where various LGBT groups can spend so much time bitching and complaining against each other that, at worst, they undermine each other, and at best, they needlessly waste their time and energy. Before the Senate marriage vote in 2009, various groups were hopelessly wasting their resources and sometimes completely contradicting each other on messaging. After the vote, some activists seemed angrier at each other than at the “no” voting Senators themselves.
So it was somewhat to our surprise to see the Empire State Pride Agenda, Freedom to Marry, Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Marriage Equality New York (MENY) announce yesterday the creation of a new group, New Yorkers United to Marry. While all share common goals, the groups’ members can vehemently, publicly and privately, disagree about each others’ tactics. The groups submitting to the new coordination effort run the gamut in money and style, from the all volunteer grassroots MENY based locally, to the well-financed HRC based in DC.
To many hardcore direct action gay activists HRC has become as loathed as it is by the Christian right. And yet, all four groups are presenting a unified front.
The Times reports that Governor Cuomo is having has own staff direct this new
legislative campaign, and that “advocates envision a short, disciplined and intense run-up to a vote in the State Legislature, raising the prospect that gay couples may be allowed to wed in New York by early summer.”
Ultimately, the people demanding the wettest blowjobs just to support equal rights for all New Yorkers will again be a handful of state senators. But it’s good to see that gay rights groups will be on the same page and are willing to lend a hand(job) to each other if needed, rather than inadvertently or purposefully working against each other.
UPDATE: That big tent coalition pushing for marriage equality just keeps getting bigger. Today, the Log Cabin Republicans (LCR) announced they are joining New Yorkers United to Marry.
The infighting between democratically aligned LGBT groups is nothing compared to their general rancor directed towards gay republicans, so seeing them all join forces is pretty huge.
And, regardless of how organized Freedom to Marry, MENY, HRC, Empire State Pride Agenda and Governor Cuomo are, they’re going to need some Republican Senate votes. The Log Cabin Republicans could help there. Though their membership and tactics are not especially popular with traditional gay activists, LCR’s’ recent legal successes with Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell are undeniable and lit a fire under the Obama Administration to end the policy before the courts did.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 21, 2011