I’ve written several times about the soap opera in New York, where Democrats secured a majority in the Senate, but were prevented from taking control of the body by several dissidents. Most notably, Democratic State Senator Ruben Diaz — a Pentecostal Minister — refused to go along with the Democratic leadership without a promise that gay marriage would not come to the floor for a vote. He initially got the concession he wanted, but when gay rights groups learned of the deal, Democratic Leader Malcolm Smith was forced to renege.
That’s where the matter has stood for weeks. Despite a lot of talk and outside speculation, there was no hint that Diaz and the other two rebels would support a Democratic leader. Then suddenly last night, all 3 dissidents came back to the fold. Interestingly, no one will address the topic of gay marriage — except for some cryptic comments from Diaz:
When asked about whether there was an agreement made about the issue of same-sex marriage, Senate Democratic Leader Malcolm Smith was evasive, saying only that there was “no discussion on that issue” during Tuesday’s meeting with conference members.
Diaz looked visibly upset as Smith made the statement. Diaz told reporters after the news conference that he was upset because there had been discussion about the issue, contrary to Smith’s statement.
“I’m comfortable with whatever is going to happen,” said Diaz over the fate of same-sex marriage in the Senate. When asked what the agreement was, he would not elaborate, saying only, “I’m satisfied that everything is under control.”
New York Daily News blogger Elizabeth Benjamin makes clear that Diaz has seemed unlikely to compromise on his demands, and she also has video of him steadfastly refusing to talk about why he’s ‘satisfied that everything is under control.’ It seems we’ll have to wait and see if Democrats really did trade political power for ‘civil rights.’ But for now at least, it sure seems that way.
If even Democrats in New York are willing to give up on gay marriage at the first hint it will cost them power, I wonder if that fact has implications for the gay marriage debate during the Obama presidency. For example, it’s likely that Barack Obama will have one or more Supreme Court appointments during his term, and that his nominee(s) will be asked about gay marriage. Given the consistent failure of gay marriage initiatives around the country, there may be plenty of Democratic Senators who refuse to support a Supreme Court nominee who does not express respect for the rights of states to define marriage as they see fit. It may be something to keep in mind.