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Gay Bucks Roll in to Support Pro-Gay Marriage N.Y. GOP Lawmakers

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Wednesday Jan 18, 2012
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Gay rights activists from all over the country are lending financial support to Republican state senators who voted in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage in New York last summer, the New York Times reported in a Jan. 17 article.

The four GOP lawmakers went against their party’s usual beliefs and voted to legalize gay marriage. A number of gay rights activists see this as a pivotal moment in the gay rights movement as it shows that Republicans and conservative Democrats around the country may be coming around to same-sex marriage and are willing to vote to legalize it.

"It was essential to send a clear signal around the country that we will support those who support equality, irrespective of party," said Brian Ellner, a senior strategist for the Human Rights Campaign. "We were able to win marriage in New York with a bipartisan coalition of fair-minded elected officials. We need to replicate that if we are to keep winning."

The four senators as well as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who strongly backed gay marriage, all saw a large increase in their fund-raising during the six months after the legalization of same-sex marriage. Alone, Cuomo raised $6 million from gay marriage supporters.

State Senator Roy J. McDonald, a Republican and Vietnam veteran, raised about $4470,000 -- 27 times more than he raised during the same time in 2009.

Senator Stephen M. Saland, a Republican lawyer, raised $425,000, while first-term Republican senator Mark Grisanti raised $325,000 during the six-month time period.

Michael McKeon, a liberal California insurance executive said he has never supported a GOP candidate but was deeply moved after hearing Grisanti’s speech about gay marriage on the Senate floor.

"His speech was absolutely compelling, moving," McKeon told the Times. "If Mr. Grisanti were running for president, I’d vote for him, even though he’s Republican."

McKeon, 48, met Grisanti and donated $200 to his campaign. After same-sex marriage was legalized in New York, McKeon and his partner returned to the state to tie the knot.

Senator James S. Alesi was the first Republican to support gay marriage and said in an interview that he raised $350,000 to $400,000 and that half of his new donations came from individuals that backed same-sex marriage.

"I didn’t vote for the money, but it’s gratifying to know that support is there, especially coming into an election year," Alesi said. "It’s more gratifying to me when someone comes up to me and says, ’I appreciate your vote’; you can’t put a price on that."

A number of high profiled individuals donated to both the four senators and Gov. Cuomo, including film director J.J. Abrams, producer Stephen Bing, billionaire Robert Ziff and Theodore B. Olson (R), a former U.S. solicitor general and gay marriage supporter.

Fashion designer Calvin Klein, singer Don Henley and actor and producer Rob Reiner also donated to Cuomo and the Republican senators. Additionally, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave money to support the lawmakers.

Americans from all around the country donated to the politicians as well. A Texas woman even sent Saland just $5 and a Mississippi resident gave $12. No matter how small the donation, every one is important.

Although the support for gay marriage has been increasing from both sides of the political fence, there are still many who oppose it. The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) attacked the senators last September with a billboard, EDGE reported.

"Roy McDonald, You’re fired," the ad read.

NOM is an anti-gay organization that works against the legalization of same-sex marriage.

"This is not going to end," the president of NOM, Brian Brown, told the media. NOM spent $40,000 in the short term on billboards attacking pro-equality legislators. The group has already spent $150,000 on leaflets in the four senators’ districts.

In October of last year NOM criticized the senators again with an online advertisement, titled "Money Dance."

"These four state Senators have betrayed New Yorkers in their quest for wedding cash," Brown said in a press release.

"They abandoned their stated values and their own promises to voters. We want to expose these Senators and their same-sex marriage money dance. NOM and our ’Let the People Vote’ coalition will not rest until these legislators are turned out of office and the people of New York are allowed to vote on the definition of marriage."

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