Opposition to Gay Marriage Wins NY GOP Senate Control [UPDATED]

[UPDATE] As I’ve already noted in comments, Hiram Monserrate is in point of fact no prize: he’s currently under indictment for going after his girlfriend with a broken beer bottle.  Can’t say that he looks any better with an R after his name than he did with a D, although I’m perfectly willing to bet that his former compatriots will immediately proclaim that he magically now looks worse.  – Moe Lane

At least, those are the early indications.

I haven’t had occasion to write about the New York Democrat civil war over gay marriage in several months. The last occasion was here. Basically, New York Democrats finally won a majority in the State Senate in 2008 – the first majority they had in the Senate in 40 years. It seemingly gave them unified control of the state government – as long as they could reach some compromise between Democrat Senators who favored gay marriage, and those who opposed. That agreement eluded them for months. Senator Espada and several others sought assurances that the Senate would not vote on gay marriage legislation in this session. Eventually the two made a deal with Democrat leader Malcolm Smith, but they would not discuss the terms of that deal.

Now, as gay marriage legislation was gaining steam in New York, Espada and Hiram Montserrate have made good on their threat to quit the party. While I don’t see any confirmation yet that their switch is directly linked to same-sex marriage, that’s where the early betting is:

Chaos reigned in the State Capitol Monday as Senate Republicans pulled off an unprecedented mid-session coup to gain control of the chamber.

The GOP managed to flip two Democrats to their side, making one of them, Pedro Espada Jr. (D-Bronx), the temporary president of the chamber.

Sen. Pedro Espada Jr. (D-Bronx) and Sen. Hiram Monserrate (D-Queens) agreed to side with Republicans in what they are calling a new bipartisan coalition to run the Senate.

Espada, who said he will remain a Democrat, was voted as temporary president of the Senate. Republican Dean Skelos was installed as majority leader.

The man ousted as temporary president and majority leader, Malcolm Smith, and his colleagues are expected to sue to stop the coup.

“Life is circular, my friend,” Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island) snarled to Espada and Monserrate as she and her fellow Dems stormed out of the chamber.

It’s interesting to see how differently Democrats are reacting to this party switch than they did to those of Jim Jeffords, Arlen Specter, and others. Those Senators were hailed as brave souls willing to stand up to an extremist party and agenda, and to stick to their principles. In New York, Democrats are threatening to go to court:

Smith spokesman Austin Shafran said as far as Democrats are concerned, Smith is still the legal head of the Senate.

“This was an illegal and unlawful attempt to gain control of the Senate and reverse the will of the people who voted for a Democratic majority,” Shafran said. “Nothing has changed…The real Senate majority is anxious to get back to governing, and will take immediate steps to get us back to work.”

‘Reverse the will of the people who voted for a Democratic majority?’ How quickly Democrats change their tune when a party switch costs them the perks of control.