Marriage Equality in New York
I stopped by the big Pride Parade yesterday, which, for obvious reasons, was pretty exciting this year. I parked myself on Christopher and Bleecker Streets, a place which I figured had some pretty historic connotations and took some pictures (click on them to blow them up), which I thought I’d share along with some thoughts.
1. The only moment, in my life, where I’ve seen so much authentic and unscripted joy was election night 2008, when the whole city burst into spontaneous celebration. New Yorkers are a pretty rude antisocial bunch, but the mood in Greenwich Village was completely jubilant and communal. Everyone was talking about the bill in every coffee shop and restaurant. I heard strangers discussing it in the Strand bookstore, and the level of authentic joy and happiness, including among the many straight people, was infectious.
2. If anyone still thinks of the gay rights movement as a rich white movement, they haven’t spent much time in New York City. It may be that marriage equality was able to pass because rich white New Yorkers, by and large, either supported it or didn’t care. But both the crowd and the marchers were appropriate for New York: a completely diverse, rowdy, and democratic bunch. There were the South Asian gay marchers, the Orthodox Jews, the Latina Women, the Asian marchers, etc…I’d like to think it would make Walt Whitman proud, on a whole bunch of levels.
3. I’ve been at a lot of protests and seen a lot of hostility between cops and crowds. Here was the opposite. My favorite moment was when these cops all got their photos taken with drag queens.
4. Given the diversity of the movement, especially all the young people of color in the audience, I almost feel like its inappropriate for the parade to go through the West Village, which, despite all the historical connotations doesn’t seem all that relevant to the modern gay movement. I would have almost liked it to relocate to Bushwick or the Bronx.
5. There has been a lot of debate about why Andrew Cuomo (a Governor whom I have no particular love for, but I’ll admit came through here) was able to win by, in the words of Nate Silver, “setting a lofty goal, refusing to take no for an answer and using every tool at his disposal to achieve it,” while Obama has been dillying and compromising all over the place (Although there were Obama stickers around, I heard lots of grumbling over his cowardly stance on marriage equality).
Matthew Yglesias and Steve Benanblame the filibuster in the Senate, but this seems off base. Obama had 60 and then 59 Democratic Senators, putting him at an advantage over Cuomo in terms of getting to the magic number. In other words both would have had to convince their moderate senators and a couple of Republicans in order to pass legislation. Cuomo seems to have been much more successful at it then Obama has been.
Jon Chait’s observation that Gay Marriage is more palatable to politicians, especially Wall Street friendly ones like Andrew Cuomo, rings true to me. Stepping back, gay marriage starts seeming logical in a world of post-modern family structures, widespread (ideological) individualism, and identity politics. There is a lot of debate on the Left about exactly how radical gay rights politics is exactly because the premises of the movement seem so consistent with the broader neoliberal moment.
I think thats probably all accurate– gay marriage is more likely to pass because rich donors are supportive and because it is consistent with neoliberal ideology. But, and this is important, that doesn’t diminish the victory one bit. It’s an extraordinary victory for the Left and for human rights in general, exactly because gay rights activists were able to seize the opportunity (created, possibly, by forces beyond their control), in order to attack a heinous form of hierarchy that had plagued human society.