ALBANY — The State Senate defeated a bill on Wednesday that would legalize same-sex marriage, after an emotional debate that touched on civil rights, family and history. The vote means that the bill, pushed by Gov. David A. Paterson, is effectively dead for the year and dashes the optimism of gay rights advocates, who have had setbacks recently in several key states.
The bill was defeated by a decisive margin of 38 to 24. The Democrats, who have a bare, one-seat majority, did not have enough votes to pass the bill without some Republican support, but not a single Republican senator voted for the measure. Still, several key Democrats who were considered swing votes also opposed the bill.
Mr. Paterson made an unusual trip to the Senate floor minutes after the last vote was cast, saying, “These victories come and so do the losses, but you keep on trying.”
The state’s Roman Catholic bishops, who had actively lobbied against the bill, said they were pleased by the vote.
“While the Catholic Church rejects unjust discrimination against homosexual men and women, there is no question that marriage by its nature is the union of one man and one woman,” Richard E. Barnes, the executive director of the New York State Catholic Conference, said in a statement. “Advocates for same-sex marriage have attempted to portray their cause as inevitable. However, it has become clear that Americans continue to understand marriage the way it has always been understood, and New York is not different in that regard. This is a victory for the basic building block of our society.”
What is truly compelling about this victory for traditional marriage is twofold: first, that even with a Democrat majority the bill was defeated by a sizable margin, and second, that this vote took place in the state Senate of one of the bluest of the blue states. Suddenly, the aura of inevitability that the gay-marriage side of this cultural clash has tried to place around their side of the issue is dissipating, and the real belief of most Americans that marriage ought to continue to be defined as the union of one man and one woman is shining through the fog as the mainstream position, the one which is more and more likely to prevail.
This doesn't mean, of course, that we ought to let our guard down. Having had a couple of major setbacks this year, the same-sex marriage advocates are going to be working harder than ever to try to force Americans to accept not one, but two new definitions: that "marriage" means the union of any two (for now) people of any genders, and that "bigot" means anyone who disagrees with that definition and who thus deserves to be marginalized and excluded from society. Since that latter definition will include every Catholic who is faithful to the Church's teachings, it's just as important as ever that we continue to oppose the redefinition of marriage and its corresponding redefinition of bigotry.