The historic passage of the bill that legalized same-sex marriage in New York, the sixth and largest state to do so, was achieved by a GOP-led state Senate. The measure would never have passed without the backing of four Republican state senators along with 29 of their Democratic counterparts.
Many Republicans have expressed disdain that the senate would even let this issue come to a vote. With a majority in the senate, the GOP could have blocked the bill from going to the floor. The Republicans, however, were not unified on the issue of gay marriage. Furthermore, the Senate majority leader, Dean G. Skelos of Long Island, showed no signs of compelling his colleagues to reach a consensus on the issue, according to The New York Times.
The fact that the GOP even let this issue come to a vote is a “disaster for the Republican Party,” says Brian Brown, president of National Organization for Marriage, according to The Wall Street Journal (WSJ). NOM plans on spending at least $2 million to defeat the GOP senators who “caved” on the gay marriage issue.
“This is a major betrayal. I would think NOM’s intentions are to be taken very seriously and could have major impact on future elections,” Chuck Donovan, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told The Christian Post.
However, the same GOP senators also received support from Wall Street, most notably ultra-wealthy Republicans. The New York Times reported on Sunday that the passage of the gay marriage law may have had just as much to do with finances as it did with the emotional pull of granting equal marriage rights to gays.
According to the Times, the rich Republican donors were motivated to get involved with the issue by their own gay loved ones and “offered their influence and money to insulate nervous senators from conservative backlash if they supported the marriage measure.”
Many political pundits have speculated that the issue of gay marriage will be a divisive wedge between the libertarian wing of the Republican Party, that is accepting of gay marriage based on the claim of individual liberties, and the social conservatives who object to it based on the claim of morality. The libertarian-leaning Republicans make up most of the GOP elite while the social conservatives make up the majority of the base.
Democrats are calling on their party to make the gay marriage issue one that divides the Republican Party.
Given the gulf between the elite and the base on this issue, some GOP presidential candidates have expressed conflicting views on the matter.
For example, Michele Bachmann has indicated that New York had the right to legalize gay marriage under the 10th amendment. At the same time, she stated she will advocate for a constitutional amendment to surpass such state laws, according to the Daily Beast. Likewise, Mitt Romney has said he is in favor of gay rights. However, he also favors a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages.
The 2012 presidential election is not likely to be built around the issue of gay marriage. However, the latest Gallup poll shows that 59 percent of independent voters favor gay marriage. This could be another hurdle for the already divided Republican Party who will need to court the independent vote in order to win the election – but likely at the cost of support from social conservatives.