The Arc of History Bends Towards Justice in New York

Six down, 44 to go.

Lawmakers [in the New York state Senate] voted late Friday to legalize   same-sex marriage, making New York the largest state where gay and lesbian couples will be able to wed and giving the national gay-rights movement new momentum from the state where it was born. […]

Senate approval was the final hurdle for the same-sex marriage legislation, which was approved last week by the Assembly. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed the measure at 11:55 p.m., and the law will go into effect in 30 days, meaning that same-sex couples could begin marrying in New York by late July.

The final vote was 33 to 29. New York joins Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and the District of Columbia as the only places in the U.S. where same-sex couples can get legally married.

 It’s worth emphasizing, though, that not all of those states followed the same path. New York joins Vermont as the only states in the nation that approved marriage equality because they wanted to — the others approved measures under court order. In other words, policymakers in New York, just as in Vermont, legalized same-sex marriage because they thought it was the right thing to do, not because a judge told them they had to.

That, I’d argue, makes success that much more meaningful.


The political twists of this process were rather unusual. When Democrats ran the state Senate in the last session, infighting doomed a similar proposal. Now, there’s a Republican majority in the same chamber, and it passed. Indeed, the real oddity of last night’s debate was watching the two highest-profile speakers: Sen. Mark Grisanti, a Buffalo Republican who opposed marriage equality, spoke about why he changed his mind and would help pass the measure. Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., a Democrat from the Bronx, played the role of Robert Byrd stonewalling the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and condemned the effort.

Still, when the dust cleared, it was clear this was a Democratic win — all but four Republicans voted against it, and all but one Democrat voted for it. The victory wouldn’t have been remotely possible were it not for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) leadership. He made the measure a top priority and used his power to make this happen.

Because of New York’s large population, the new law “essentially doubles the number of Americans who can gain access to same-sex marriage licenses.”

And it’s another step towards the ultimate goal of true equality. The number of states with marriage equality keeps growing. The number of Americans who support marriage equality keeps growing. The number of policymakers willing to endorse marriage equality keeps growing. The head of Focus on the Family was recently asked about same-sex marriage, and he practically conceded defeat, saying, “We’ve probably lost that.”

I agree. Equality is inevitable. As the arc of history continues to bend toward justice, most of the country now believes two consenting adults should be legally permitted to get married if they want to. It’s exceptionally unlikely that trend will ever reverse — civil-rights trajectories simply never move that way. Society becomes less prejudiced, less hateful, and less bigoted over time.

And there’s not much the right can do about it.




Washington Monthly / By Steve Benen

Posted at June 25, 2011, 4:28am