The last couple of years, polls have shown consistently that same-sex marriage is popular in New York, winning support from between 54 to 58% of voters. That compares with 36-42% who oppose legal marriage for gays and lesbians.
But a lot of the folks with misgivings about homosexuality — not all, by any means — have gravitated to the Republican Party. And yesterday’s vote was a kind of trial run for GOP moderates on the issue.
Three state senators — including Saratoga County’s Roy McDonald — faced conservative challengers who assailed them on the issue. Two of those lawmakers are essentially tied after yesterday’s voting, and now await absentee ballots.
The issue also shaped North Country elections this year. Teresa Sayward from Willsboro, an Assemblywoman who championed gay marriage, chose not to seek re-election. The man who will replace her on the GOP line, Dan Stec from Queensbury, opposes same-sex marriage.
Janet Duprey, the Assemblywoman who represents the 115th district, faced two conservative rivals yesterday and together they outpolled her by roughly 200 votes.
Her strongest rival, Conservative Party candidate Karen Bisso, told NCPR that “95%” of the opposition to Duprey this year was sparked by same-sex marriage.
The issue is a challenge for Northeastern Republicans, who generally prefer to think of themselves — and brand themselves with voters — as more focused on fiscal issues, lowering taxes and balancing budgets.
But particularly in areas with strong Roman Catholic communities, and sizable rural populations, conservative voters are often moved by the same sentiments that shape the political climate in other parts of the US.
Republican voters also tune in to many of the same sources of information, from Christian broadcasters, to Fox News, to Rush Limbaugh — venues where social issues share equal billing with pocket book matters and the economy.
What’s unclear is how this affect the Republican Party’s fortunes overall. Winning a GOP vote in a low-turnout primary is one thing. Finding messages and platforms that will attract enough votes to win in November is very different, and more challenging.
For now, Thursday’s vote is a reminder that while many New Yorkers have “moved on” and no longer see gay marriage as a touchstone issue, for a significant number of our neighbors it remains a crucial flashpoint.