An article in the NY Times makes it pretty clear that Governor Andrew Cuomo made it happen by bringing together an unlikely coalition of forces.
Yes, he brought together a group of super-rich Republican donors to meet with two of his top advisers who explained that the Governor was determined to legalize same-sex marriage on his watch.
The strategy was to convince these donors that they 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".
|NYT photo: Gov Cuomo signing the bill into law|
“You can either focus on the goal, or we can spend a lot of time competing and destroying ourselves,” the governor said.
And, yes, with this Governor, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. His father, and former Governor, Mario Cuomo, rose to national prominence as the conscience of the Democratic Party, passionately defending the poor and assailing the death penalty.
In his first year as Governor, the younger-Mr. Cuomo had achieved what seemed like modern-day miracles by the standards of Albany — an austere on-time budget and a deal to cap property taxes.
But, as Mr. Cuomo explained by phone to his father a few weeks ago, he did not want those accomplishments to define his first year in office.And, yes, his strategy with the very powerful, influential Roman Catholic archdiocese was also a piece of how Mr. Cuomo made it happen.
“They are operational,” he told his father. Passing same-sex marriage, by contrast, “is at the heart of leadership and progressive government.”
“I have to do this.”
When he learned that church leaders had objected to the language of the marriage legislation, he invited its lawyers to the Capitol to vent their frustration.
Mr. Cuomo even spoke to Archbishop Dolan about the push for same-sex marriage, emphasizing his respect and affection for the religious leader. An adviser described the governor’s message to Archbishop Dolan this way: “I have to do what I have to do. But your support over all is very important to me.”
|NYT photo: Gov. Cuomo before the vote|
Solid coalition building and community organizing.
Effective management and leadership.
Keeping church and state separate.
Yes, yes, yes. All of these were the ingredients to a recipe for success. First, you begin with electing a Governor who will be supportive to your cause. (AKA "Preheat the oven to 350 and assemble all ingredients")
Other organizers and activists in other states, please take note.
However, I want to offer another aspect of 'most this amazing' law, because I don't believe Mr. Cuomo would have been effective without it.
It's the power of family.
Yes, Mr. Cuomo had campaigned on the issue of marriage equality in the race for governor last year. After his election, he was reportedly "staggered by the number of gay couples who sought him out at restaurants and on the street, prodding him, sometimes tearfully, to deliver on his word".
At the end of the day, however, it wasn't just Queer families who were the decisive ingredient. No, it was the families of the Governor, the Senators, and the Republican donors who provided the "secret ingredient" to this recipe for success.
Billionaire Paul Singer, who was one of the major Republican contributors to the Marriage Equality Campaign, has a son who is gay.
Mr. Cuomo’s girlfriend, Sandra Lee, has an openly gay brother. Apparently, she frequently reminded the governor how much she wanted the law to change.
Democratic Senator Carl Kruger from Brooklyn, had voted against same-sex marriage two years ago. The gay nephew of the woman he lives with, Dorothy Turano, was so furious at Mr. Kruger for opposing same-sex marriage that he had cut off contact with both of them, devastating Ms. Turano.
“I don’t need this,” Mr. Kruger told Senator John L. Sampson of Brooklyn, the Democratic majority leader. “It has gotten personal now.”
Mr. Sampson, a longtime supporter of same-sex marriage, advised Mr. Kruger to focus on the nephew, not the political repercussions. “When everything else is gone,” Mr. Sampson told him, “all you have left is family.”Let me just repeat that so we don't miss its significance:
This is precisely why so many Queer people remained in the closet for so many years. This is the reason so many will remain in the closet, even in the midst of a sea-change that is happening in our national conscience.“When everything else is gone, all you have left is family.”
When faced with exclusion or expulsion by our families of origin, many of us have decided - and will continue to decide - that "When everything else is gone, all you have left is family."
When that is supported and compounded by judgment, exclusion and expulsion from our religious communities of faith, even cracking open the closet door requires courage of Herculean proportions.
This is why so many of us in "God's Rainbow Tribe" are so devoted to the concept of inclusion.
Indeed, this is the reason so many of us have created our own "families of choice" - both in terms of the trust and intimacy we share with people who are not our "blood-kin".
It is also the impulse to create our own families, adopting or having our own biological children or taking in foster children - the kids no one else wants.
And, when we choose not to have children, our four-legged friends become full members of our family circle, as cherished and loved as any child.
Queer people value families - perhaps more so than those who take them for granted because it's all so "normal" and "natural" for them. You don't often cherish something until it is threatened.
I remember a brief conversation I had many years ago with Otis Charles, retired Bishop of Utah and former President and Dean of The Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, MA. He was also the first bishop to come out of the Lavender Closet in the House of Bishops, which he did after his retirement.
As I recall, we were standing on a street in Denver, CO, where General Convention was meeting that year. Otis said, "I remember clearly the morning we were taking the vote on the ordination of women. Elvira (his then wife), abruptly opened the shower door and said, 'Before you vote today, I want you to remind all your brother bishops that, at the end of the day, they will be coming home to their wives'".
"That," he said, "made the difference. At the end of this day, no one will be going home to face a spouse or even a family member who is gay."
Not so much anymore.
The Queer Community has taken the Religious Right's mantra of "family values" and turned it around to one that understands the value of families.
It's a powerful concept, one that is a force with which we are just now beginning to reckon in all of its political implications.
At the end of the day, I believe that it was the politics of family which opened hearts and minds as well as check books and helped to craft effective political organizing and strategy.
God Bless Governor Cuomo and all the legislators and activists - past and present - who made this landmark and historic vote happen.
Families are the chief building blocks of any culture or society.
It is within those family structures that living, breathing, thriving cultural monuments to justice and mercy, peace and compassion are built.
"It has gotten personal now".
'Personal is political' - as we used to say in the early days of the feminist movement - and the politics of family is always personal.
It has ever been thus.
It's just that now we know it better than we ever did.
And, as we like to say in God's Rainbow Tribe, love not only makes a family, it changes everything.
You can't get much more personal - or political - than that.