Senator Stephen Saland of New York, one of four Republicans who backed marriage equality legislation that passed last year and sparked momentum on the issue nationwide, conceded defeat in his bid for reelection Thursday.
The 11-term incumbent from Hudson Valley officially ended his long legal battle for his seat, according to the New York Daily News. Democrat Terry Gipson will succeed him.
"Today’s final results offer a time to reflect on a fulfilling legislative career that has allowed me an opportunity to give back to the community which has given so much to me and my family,” said Saland. “I wish those I have represented, regardless of party, only the best and thank them for the years they entrusted me to serve as their State Senator."
Saland lost the endorsement of the Conservative Party of New York State, which provides a critical line to Republican candidates, because of his vote for marriage equality. He narrowly won his primary contest, but lost the three-way general election despite having the backing of the popular Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo.
Governor Cuomo called Saland’s loss “unfortunate” in a statement.
“As a result of his courage, tens of thousands of couples here in New York State have the freedom to marry whom they choose,” he said. “Steve is a public servant of remarkable character, integrity, and courage and serves as a model for our collective aspirations of how our elected officials should perform. It is unfortunate that an elected official who stood so strong for equality, as Steve did, was not able to survive in today's political environment.”
The passage of the legislation last June represented the first time a Republican-led state legislature voted for marriage equality. New York became the sixth state with marriage equality, and when the law took effect, it doubled the number of Americans who lived in a state where same-sex couples can legally marry. Legislation passed in Washington and Maryland within the year, and President Obama announced his support.
Three other Republican senators joined Saland in backing the bill and also lost the support of the Conservative Party and faced threats from marriage equality opponents including the National Organization for Marriage. Senator James Alesi announced he would not run for reelection, Senator Roy McDonald was defeated in his primary, and Senator Mark Grisanti won reelection.
Gregory T. Angelo, the chairman of the Log Cabin Republicans of New York, provided The Advocate with a statement about Saland’s defeat.
"There are few elected officials in New York who served their constituents with more dedication and passion than Senator Saland,” he said. “He will be remembered as a hero for his many contributions to the Empire State, in addition to being ahead of his time on the issue of marriage equality."