The Death Rattle of the Anti-Gay Movement?

As we reported in exhaustive detail late Friday night, the New York state senate voted 33-29 to legalize marriage equality. Governor Cuomo has signed the bill. In fewer than 30 days, same-gender couples will be able to marry legally in New York state.

Once the law goes into effect, the number of people living in states with marriage equality will double. Yes, dykes: double. Moreover, dykelets, New York is the largest state to achieve marriage equality through the legislative process.

But that ain’t all!

No, ladies, that ain’t all. Because it’s not just about size, right? (A wink and a nod to our straight lady readers.) The symbolism of it seems to be pretty damn powerful. People have predicted that this may be a tipping point in the battle for LGBT equality.

Some unusual things happened this time. For one, the state legislature, not the courts, made marriage equality law; for another, four Republicans broke ranks and voted for same-gender marriage; and for another, the bishops and the National Organization for Marriage pulled out all the stops and still didn’t win. This is especially significant in New York, where the bishops have traditionally exerted a strong influence on state politics. Oh, also, this battle the Catholic bishops lost was spearheaded by Catholic laypeople.

As Jamie L. Manson writes in the National Catholic Reporter, the passage of the marriage equality bill in New York represents a big, public, and ugly defeat of the NY bishops by Catholic laity. Catholics in elected office were key players in the fight for marriage equality: Andrew Cuomo, Daniel O’Donnell, Joseph Alesi, and Tom Duane among them. And as we learned from the Public Religion Research Institute’s report this year, the Catholics like the gays and also they would like us to have rights.

The bishops are not happy about this. Bishops don’t like being disobeyed, but they really, really don’t like being publicly defied. And now, they and their conservative supporters are freaking out. No, really.

A senior adviser to the Vatican, Prof. Edward Peters, wants Andrew Cuomo investigated by the Catholic Church and denied communion for his support for marriage equality, in the hopes that this punishment might “serve as an example” to other politicians considering support for same-sex marriage.

Bishop DiMarzio of Brooklyn, in a not rare burst of hyperbole, called marriage equality “another ‘nail in the coffin’ of marriage,” and asked Catholics in his diocese “not to bestow or accept honors, nor to extend a platform of any kind to any state elected official, in all our parishes and churches for the foreseeable future.”

The National Organization for Marriage, which I would never have accused of being moderate, reasonable, or respectful in its rhetoric anyway, has some unusually strong feelings about this. See, for example, NOM’s website as of the last few days. In white letters across a red and black graphic that looks like it was plagiarized from “Dateline,” the message reads: “Help us Defeat the New York Senators That Betrayed Marriage.”

Now, NOM has a multi-million dollar budget, and I personally would have hoped that one of the interns might have had the gumption to point out, as politely as possible, that the sentence really ought to read, “Help Us Defeat the New York Senators Who Betrayed Marriage.” But no matter. The point is, they’re pledging $2,000,000 to send those marriage-betrayin’ sonsabitches home. So there!

Finally, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who used his official blog to make the infamous North Korea comparison, posted a link last night to a National Review article by George Weigel, in which Archbishop Dolan himself is cited, and in which Weigel argues that marriage equality legislation is not only not libertarian, but actually represents the use of “coercive state power,” not unlike that used to impose racial segregation.

No, you’re not reading The Onion. That is indeed his argument.

After he or she finishes being offended by Weigel’s attempt to pit sexual minorities and racial minorities against each other with a hierarchy of oppression, the reader is left to wonder how Weigel imagines the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Brown v. Board of Education took effect. Weigel doesn’t go into that. He writes simply, “Once the American people came to see that [segregation], however hallowed by custom (and prejudice), [was], in fact, unnatural and not obvious, the law was changed.” No mention of who changed it, how, or in spite of what resistance. No mention of necessary government action to address inequality. Not important! The gays are like the segregationists! Done!

It is also worth noting that Weigel characterizes the movement for marriage equality as an expression of “the totalitarian temptation that lurks within all modern states: the temptation to remanufacture reality,” and writes that the “viciousness visited upon Archbishop Dolan” stands as “yet another testimony to the totalitarian impulse that lurks beneath the gay marriage movement.”

Why do I bore you with this information, you ask? Because it’s crazy. It’s extreme. It’s over the top. It’s undignified.

And it’s encouraging.

We are not hearing the thoughtful–or even emotional–objections of people who think they’ve still got a fighting chance. We are witnessing, rather, the full-on, kicking and screaming temper tantrums of people who recognize that marriage equality in New York is a tipping point in the debate to which some of them have dedicated their careers, and on which some of them have built their public profiles.

We are witnessing, I think and I hope, the beginnings of the loud, teary, vindictive death rattle of the anti-equality movement.

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