Is Thomas Duane, the gay Democratic New York State senator trying to push through same-sex marriage legislation, about to join others in jumping ship to join with Republicans? And could that actually be good for gay rights?
In looking how the departure of Sens. Pedro Espada Jr. of the Bronx and Hiram Monserrate of Queens from the Dems to Repubs could affect the marriage debate, we didn’t imagine a possible jump from Sen. Duane to be a factor.
But speculation grows that Duane (pictured, with partner partner Louis Webre), furious with his fellow Dems for refusing to pass marriage legislation, may join the other party, giving more support to the ouster of Sen. Malcolm Smith as majority leader (and giving Republican Sen. Dean Skelos the post). On the record, Duane will only say, “I am not considering anything but trying to get passed all the legislation I’ve spent my whole life fighting for.”
Duane, however, has an ally among the Dems who already switched: Espada is also pro-marriage equality. And given the Senate’s history of using marriage as a bargaining chip for political power, it’s not impossible to think Duane (or other senators, including, perhaps, Espada) could give his allegiance to Republicans in exchange for bringing the marriage bill to a vote — and with GOP support.
Which begs the question: What if Democrats, having expired their five months of power (their first in forty years), failed to pass gay marriage — and Republicans did it? As social conservatism among Republicans slides out of favor with more emphasis on fiscal conservatism, it’s a whole new ballgame that, quite possibly, could have GOP lawmakers backing New York as the seventh state for same-sex marriage.