Gay Marriage Causes Democratic Civil War in NY

I’ve written before on the dispute over gay marriage in the state of New York, which has prevented Democrats from asserting control over the State Senate for the first time in 43 years. A quick summary: while Democrats won a majority of Senate seats on election day, several Democratic Senators initially refused to support their leader — Malcolm Smith — for the post of Senate President. Smith and the dissidents later came together on a deal to buy their support in exchange for a series of concessions — one of which was a promise not to bring up legislation legalizing gay marriage in the next two years. Smith was subsequently forced to reneg on his deal however, when the New York gay community rose up in outrage. Weeks later, that’s still where things stand. It’s unclear who will run the Senate when it meets to organize next Wednesday, January 7.

In recent days, the gay community has taken to targeting Democratic Senator Ruben Diaz — the pro-life pentecostal minister who extracted the gay marriage pledge from Smith. They have deluged his office with phone calls — some of them threatening. Now a number of liberal activist groups have targeted the districts of dissidents Diaz and Pedro Espada with mailings pressuring them to line up behind Smith:

This week, some 8,000 Bronx members of 32BJ will receive direct direct mail pieces targeting two of the so-called Gang of Three – Senator-elect Pedro Espada Jr. and Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. – in an effort to crank up pressure on the dissidents to come back to the Democratic fold and back Malcolm Smith for majority leader.

The mailers, which are in both English and Spanish, are part of a wider campaign by a number of labor interests that were instrumental in helping the Senate Democrats win a majority of seats this fall for the first time since 1965 and don’t want to see the fruits of their labor scuttled by three renegades.

Other union members of this pro-Democrat alliance include: Unite-HERE/ New York Hotel Trades Council, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and the Communications Workers of America…

Also involved in the push to co-opt the Gang of Three are: NARAL Pro-Choice NY, the Empire State Pride Agenda, Tenants PAC, and the Working Families Party. All have a wide range of policy agendas – from same-sex marriage to protecting rent regulation – the success of which hinges on the Democrats having control of both the Senate and the Assembly (not to mention the governor’s office).

In the face of this pressure, Diaz has penned an open letter to his constituents — defending himself against charges of disloyalty, and promising to continue to defend traditional marriage and to oppose abortion. He’s also linking his refusal to cave to the Democratic leadership with his unwillingness to support the budget ‘cuts’ proposed by New York Governor David Paterson.

It’s unclear how this will turn out, but it’s possible that the commitment of New York State Democrats to gay marriage will prevent them from unifying their control over the state government. And who would have thought that support for gay marriage could prove so costly — even in deep blue New York? It’s a worthwhile lesson, as the mainstream media continue to call for Republicans to change their views on the issue.