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Andrew Sullivan and Marriage Equality in New York

June 25th, 2011

Yesterday, I spent most of the evening glued to the live streaming of the New York State Senate’s session. I wanted to be a witness to what I hoped would be a historic vote by one of the country’s most populous states to enact marriage equality through the legislative process. I’m glad a spent this Friday evening in my apartment in San Jose, Costa Rica, fixated on my computer, for the result was wonderful to witness. New York State now permits same-sex marriage; and the legislation, signed by Governor Cuomo late last night, will go into effect 30 days hence.

Of course, being tuned in to the proceedings via the internet also afforded me the opportunity to navigate back and forth through various other websites. I had multiple tabs on my browser. One of them was for the actual livestream broadcast, another was the wikipedia page for the New York State Senate (where I could find out information on all the state senators as the need presented itself to me), another was Facebook, and a few others. But the one website I kept going back to every few minutes and refreshing was Andrew Sullivan’s blog, The Daily Dish.

I have been following Andrew Sullivan’s passionate and eloquent writing for a long time now. I was a Dish-head when Sullivan first started his blog (that blue background, white text monstrosity!!) and I remember reading his essay following the 9-11 attacks titled “This Is a Religious War” and being greatly influenced and moved by it. In fact, when I myself started blogging in August of 2002, my very first posting was a tribute to Sullivan and a recognition of his blogging as the inspiration for mine.

It’s no exaggeration for me to claim that I have basically scanned, if not read entirely, every single posting of The Daily Dish since then. I have written Sullivan numerous emails over the years, and sometimes he has even posted what I have sent to him on The Daily Dish. Once or twice, in the early years of his blog, he even replied to my emails personally.

All this is to say that as I sat listening to the NY State Senate start up the debate over the Marriage Equality legislation, I had Andrew front and center on my mind. I was following his live-blogging, and I kept envisioning and imagining where he was blogging, how he was following the NY Senate debate, and what must have been going through his mind all the while.

And mind you, I’m sitting some thousands of miles away in the Curridabat neighborhood of San Jose, Costa Rica, feeling this very personal connection to this person whose intellect I greatly admire and whose passion and commitment to the cause of marriage equality I have seen on full, unapologetic display for the past 12-15 years. Although Andrew Sullivan has been the primary influence in my own thinking on marriage equality, what he mostly did was helped clear out some of the cobwebs and to help bring into much sharper focus my own support for marriage equality. As early as November of 2003, I was trying to articulate my own defense of gay marriage even against the “civil unions” alternative, and also in terms of what I considered a faith-based argument for gay marriage. As a Catholic like Andrew Sullivan, I was trying to grapple with the position of my religious faith against gay marriage. Before reading Sullivan, I had the gut feeling that being against gay marriage just didn’t jive with the core fundamentals of my Catholic faith. In fact, opposing marriage equality seemed counter-intuitive to my faith; but I struggled to figure out why there was this disconnect between the formal position of the Catholic hierarchy and my understanding of the very precepts of Catholic Christianity. Sullivan helped me not only to figure this out, but also to come around full circle and embrace marriage equality within the fundamental precepts of Catholic Christianity. And I have been intellectually and spiritually at peace with gay marriage since. But I digress …

Anyway, listening to the NY State Senate debate last night, there were a number of intensely emotional and moving moments. Listening to openly-gay, HIV positive, Democratic Senator Tom Duane’s testimony was heart-rending and touching. Listening to Catholic Republican Senator Mark Grisanti talk about his struggle over the issue and how he came ultimately to support the legislation was equally powerful. But the most emotional moment for me came at the end of Republican Senator Stephen Saland’s explanation of the religious protections amendment to the original bill. I can’t find the video of his comments on the Senate floor, but he has posted the text of his statement in support of marriage equality. Maybe it was just me reading too much into his comments, but it seemed to me that he got a bit emotional when he started to express his support for the bill. And it was at that very moment (not when Sen. Grisanti spoke, which was some pretty awesome icing on the cake) that I realized that the bill was going to pass. I got pretty choked up myself and couldn’t help but think of Andrew Sullivan at that very moment and feel so extremely happy for him and proud of him. It took a little more time than usual for Andrew to update his blog and I just couldn’t help thinking that he was experiencing the same emotional sense of happiness and relief that I was feeling. And when the vote was all said and done, and Andrew posted that all he could do was sob, I got choked up once again.

On a completely unrelated matter, I will be travelling to NYC tomorrow, Sunday, which also happens to be the date of the Gay Pride March in NYC. And even though Andrew tends to stay away from these kinds of events, this happily-married and straight father of two hopes to be able to go and see and participate and celebrate — and I will definitely be raising a pint of beer on the soil of New York in honor of marriage equality and, especially, in honor of Andrew Sullivan.

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