Thursday, January 19, 2012

Republican NY State Senators Gain Financial Support for Marriage Equality Votes

Last June, four Republican state senators gave their support—and their votes—to marriage equality in New York. Now, according to the campaign finance filings released this Tuesday, the lawmakers’ generosity is being returned to them through substantial monetary support.

When State Senators Roy J. McDonald, Stephen M. Saland, Senator Mark Grisanti, and James S. Alesi defied their own party’s negative position on the bill, they showed that voting for marriage equality isn’t a single-party issue; Republicans are supportive of equal rights too.
Senator Alesi from East Rochester was the first to publically state his support for marriage equality. In an interview, Sen. Alesi reported that over half of his newly acquired donations came from marriage equality supporters. “I didn’t vote for the money,” he said, “but it’s gratifying to know the support is there, especially coming into an election year.”

The senators raised between $325,000 and $447,000 during the six months after they voted on the bill—numbers which were much higher than average—due to their critical votes. For example, Sen. McDonald’s financial total was about 27 times more than he raised during the same period in 2009. Even the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, who opposed the marriage law, benefited from the four senator’s votes, gaining $350,000 from three well-known Wall Street executives in acknowledgement for simply allowing the vote to take place.

However, these senators are now facing political push-back for their supportive stances. The state’s Conservative Party has already threatened them with political retribution, and ultra-conservative organizations are expressing their intent to stop the senators’ re-election.

Despite the negative feedback from marriage equality opposition, support for these brave Republican senators continues. Though it is uncommon for state senators to receive financial support from individual voters, small donations in recognition of the senators’ votes have come from as far away as Texas and Mississippi.  

Marriage equality cannot be achieved through one political party. Without the votes of these state senators, the bill may never have passed. Washington state senators from both parties have already signed on to the state’s new marriage equality bill. As we look to state legislators considering marriage equality bills this season, including Maryland and New Jersey, we hope to see more Republicans break party lines to support fair and equal rights for LGBT citizens.

Take Action: Please considering reaching out to your state legislators today, underscoring the importance of LGBT equality. These personal conversations are enormously important in building strong and meaningful relationships that will help pave the way for the necessary laws and policies required to extend full equality to our loved ones. 

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