What does NY victory really mean for gay Texans?

Posted on 30 Jun 2011 at 2:13pm

3 Republican senators deserve credit for courage, but 3 senators does not a sea change make

HARDY HABERMAN | Flagging Left

Like a lot of Dallasites, I watched the vote in the New York Senate online Friday night, June 24. My partner was patient with me; we were having dinner in a very nice restaurant, yet my conversation consisted of updates on the debate.

The iPhone got a lot of use that night.

As the final votes were being taken and the last speeches were made, the total came down on the site of justice and 33 senators, including three Republicans, voted for the bill, which allows same-sex couples as to legally marry in New York.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill later that same night and history was made. I was as happy as the thousands who danced in the street outside the Stonewall Inn.

But for a gay man living in Texas, why does what happens in New York matter?

Well, that is a good question. I am reminded of the old picante sauce commercial in which two grizzled cowboys ask where it was made, and after reading the label one says — with so much disdain you can almost taste the bitterness — “New York City!”

I suspect our Texas Legislature will look at the New York law and sound pretty much the same way.

The pundits have been trying to read a lot into the vote.

Rachael Maddow, MSNBC commentator, saw this as a change in Republican politics. Her premise is that a Republican-controlled body actually passed the bill, and maybe that sounds like some kind of directional shift for the GOP. Maybe the GOP will drop their staunch resistance to gay rights and move on to other wedge issues.

Though it would be nice should her view prove true, I really doubt that shift was as major as some may think. After all, it was only three senators who stepped out of rank with their Republican colleagues. That is hardly a sea change.

And already, there are calls by more conservative voices within the GOP to vote those three out in the next election, and I suspect their votes in favor of marriage equality will have repercussions.

I would like to think that the GOP is dropping the tirade against LGBT rights from its platform. But down here in the Lone Star State and elsewhere in the heartland, I don’t see that happening any time soon. As long as the question of marriage rights is left up to the states it will remain one of inequity.

I am reminded that it was “states’ rights’” that perpetuated segregation for so long until the federal government made civil rights part of the national discussion.

My hat is off to New York and to the brave Republicans who voted their conscience and gave LGBT New Yorkers the same rights as their straight brothers and sisters. I sincerely hope that other states will take the hint after seeing that the world will not end on July 24 when New Yorkers of all orientations can marry.

Still I look at the entrenched bigots in our own Legislature and surrounding states and know that it won’t happen soon. Even in New York, conservative Democrat Rubin Diaz voted against equality.

It will take a federal mandate to get this changed across the country. Without that, equality will be the property of some states but not others, and the reciprocity will remain in question.

Laws of one state normally are recognized in others. But apparently LGBT folk are different. We are denied that reciprocity along with more than 1,000 other rights granted to married couples.

I would not have chosen same-sex marriage as the banner issue in our fight for equality, but it has moved to the forefront and must be addressed. It is only a step toward full equality for LGBT citizens but it is a big one.

And it’s time Congress and the president gave this matter a little help. Left to the states, it won’t happen.

President Barack Obama has said he is evolving on the issue of same-sex marriage. Well, evolve already!

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.

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