Yay, New York! Starting July 24, same-sex couples in the state can go ahead and tie the knot – or choose not to – just like everyone else. New York is the sixth state to legalize gay marriage, and by far the biggest (the number of LGBT citizens who can now legally wed in the U.S. effectively doubled). BFD.
But what does the New York vote mean for the rest of the country? Each approval like this one “feeds off of and contributes substantially to the next one,” advocate Richard Socarides tells NPR. And Fred Sainz, a spokesman for national gay-rights organization Human Rights Campaign tells the New York Times, “The fundamental issue here is American public opinion. The outcome in New York will be tremendously impactful in shaping the rest of the debate.” Gay rights activists are turning their sights on Maryland and Rhode Island, two states where legalization efforts were shelved earlier this year, reports the Times.
Anti-gay marriage say/hope New York isn’t a bellwether so much as an outlier, citing the fact that most states have a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Matt Barber of the group Liberty Counsel tells NPR that New York is “the last of the low-hanging fruit.” And Brian S. Brown, president of the anti-same-sex marriage group National Organization for Marriage, is reported by the Times as saying, “The fact is, we’ve won every single vote of the people on the marriage issue.”
But polls show public opinion shifting to same-sex marriage, like a much-heralded Gallup survey in May that found 53 percent of Americans in favor. Also, younger people are more accepting than their elders. (Ya think?) And gay-rights advocates say New York, in this context, will shift the legal and political debate. “Judges are not immune to politics,” Bill Smith, the deputy executive director of the Gill Action Fund, a national gay-rights advocacy organization, tells the Times. “They watch what’s going on. When they see a pitched battle and progress like we’ve seen in New York, it matters.”