New York Gay Rights Group Backs One Republican Senate Ally

Mark Grisanti is the only Republican senator who voted for marriage equality to have been endorsed so far by the Empire State Pride Agenda.

BY Julie Bolcer

August 07 2012 1:59 PM ET

Senator Mark Grisanti

The Empire State Pride Agenda, the leading statewide LGBT lobbying group in New York, announced its endorsed candidates Tuesday morning, but only one of the three Republican state senators seeking re-election who voted for marriage equality appears on the roster.

The group backed Mark Grisanti of Buffalo, one of four Republican senators who voted for the bill that passed last year. Senators Roy McDonald and Stephen Saland have not been endorsed in their re-election bids. Senator James Alesi, the fourth yes vote, announced earlier this year that he would not seek re-election.

Advocates nationwide have prioritized the races for their potential to encourage other Republican lawmakers to vote for marriage equality. Since the vote, the senators and the Republican senate leadership that brought the bill to the floor have received more than $1 million in contributions from donors including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, hedge fund manager Paul Singer, Broadway producer Daryl Roth, and many others.

A Pride Agenda spokeswoman said the latest announcement represented only the second round of endorsements from the organization this election cycle. More endorsements are still possible.

All three Republican senators lost the support of the Conservative Party, which provides an important cross-endorsement in the state, because of their marriage equality votes, and they face primary election challenges on September 13. Grisanti’s primary opponent has not taken a stance on marriage equality, according to State of Politics, whereas McDonald and Saland face challengers who oppose it, which could make the endorsement from an LGBT group problematic. Democrats, meanwhile, are targeting Grisanti in the general election, where his marriage equality credentials could provide a boost.

As a freshman lawmaker, Senator Grisanti did not have an opportunity to vote on the bill when it failed the first time in 2009. Senators McDonald and Saland opposed the legislation back then, but on Tuesday the Pride Agenda also endorsed two assemblymembers, Janet Duprey and Fred Thiele, who switched their votes from no to yes. All but three of the group's 50 endorsed candidates are Democrats.

“I think most politicians, they took the vote, and they want to move on,” said Republican consultant Tom Doherty, who said that many factors enter into the endorsement calculations. “The reason why they voted last year is that they didn’t want it to be an issue this year.”

Since New York legalized same-sex marriage, Washington and Maryland have passed legislation with bipartisan support, although both laws face a public vote in referendums this November. A series of national polls shows that majorities of Americans favor marriage equality, while President Barack Obama announced his personal support, and the Democratic Party is expected to include the issue in its platform next month.

The Pride Agenda and other advocates in New York have turned their attention to passage of the Gender Expression Non-discrimination Act. The long overdue legislation would protect individuals on the basis of gender identity and expression. A law with protections for sexual orientation passed in 2002.

See the full list of the new Empire State Pride Agenda endorsements here.

Tags: Election

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