If you talk to Republican operatives around the state, privately they will confess that it wouldn’t be such a bad thing for them if same-sex marriage was legalized in New York State. Popular opinion is moving in favor of it, and the issue has mobilized a whole lot of money and whole of lot of manpower against the last bastion of Republicanism in state government, the State Senate. If gay marriage could just become law, then the energy would dissipate, and 2012 would look a whole lot less rocky for the G.O.P.
But here’s the rub: there isn’t much incentive for any single Republican legislator to take the plunge and be the one to make same-sex marriage the law of the land.
Most Republicans believe that if same-sex marriage passes, they will be abandoned by marriage equality groups at the next ballot box. People have short memories in politics, and civil rights groups are far more likely to support a Democrat who will back their issues in the next legislative term than back a Republican who supported one issue in the last term.
Instead, whichever Republican does vote to legalize gay marriage will face a storm of opprobrium from their right flank, as Tea Partiers and social conservatives threaten primaries.
Brian Ellner, who is leading the New York campaign for marriage equality, called to push back on the notion that gay rights groups will abandon Republican lawmakers who vote in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage.
“We are in it for the long haul with any supporter of gay marriage,” he said. “We have not lost a single supporter because of their support of marriage equality in an election and we are certainly not going to start now.”
Ellner also said that gay rights groups would support a G.O.P. legislator if they voted for marriage equality now, even if their Democratic opponent in 2012 was better on most of the issues of importance to them.