weeks the left, led by Gov. Cuomo, Mayor Bloomberg, the
, and New York’s entire homosexualist establishment, has been pushing hard to pass a homosexual “marriage” law in New York State. In one piece, the
gleefully bragged about prominent Republican and “conservative” (actually libertarian) donors who were backing the law big-time. The article was designed to make it seem as though all opposition was crumbling and victory was inevitable. But today, in a rare gesture of truth and fairness, the
that there is a rock standing in the way of homosexualist victory on this issue: Michael Long, the chairman of the New York State Conservative Party. Long has promised not to put any Republican state senator who votes for the single-sex marriage bill on the Conservative ballot, which Republicans crucially need in order to be elected. The
. In the midst of a liberal, decadent society, that’s the way conservatives need to think and to speak.
Not only does the article portray Long as having a principled position on this issue; amazingly, it contains not a single cheap shot against him.
Conservative Party Is Obstacle to Gay Marriage
By NICHOLAS CONFESSORE
Michael R. Long works out of a cluttered office above a Greek restaurant in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, one block from the liquor store that still bears his family’s name, with a replica John Wayne revolver and a photo of Ronald Reagan on the wall. Unlike other political bosses, he fields no phalanx of high-priced lobbyists and consultants. He is virtually unknown to most New Yorkers.
But Mr. Long, the chairman of the state Conservative Party, has emerged this year as the single most potent—and immovable—obstacle to the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York.
As supporters enlist celebrity endorsements, opponents spin up advertising campaigns, and both sides swarm the State Capitol to lobby wavering lawmakers, the gravel-voiced Mr. Long, a father of nine, has used two simple weapons: an unshakable belief that gay unions would undermine the institution of marriage, and his power to bestow, or withdraw, the Conservative Party ballot line in next year’s legislative elections.
“In order to get the endorsement of the Conservative Party, one of the deal breakers is traditional marriage,” Mr. Long said in an interview last week. “You say ‘I’m not for traditional marriage,’ you’re not going to get our endorsement. It’s as simple as that.”
It is not an idle threat.
New York is among a handful of states where elected officials can run on the ballot line of more than one party, and Republicans have come to rely on Conservative Party votes to win office in an increasingly Democratic-leaning state. No Republican has won statewide office without the Conservative Party’s support in more than three decades. When Republicans won control of the State Senate last year, five of the Republican candidates won by a margin less than the number of votes they received on the Conservative line.
Now, Mr. Long’s influence has stymied an aggressive, well-financed drive to pass a same-sex marriage bill in the Senate, where it failed two years ago, when the Senate was controlled by the Democrats.
Gay rights advocates, with support from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, hope to make New York the sixth and largest state to legalize same-sex marriage before the scheduled end of this year’s legislative session, on June 20.
In recent weeks, they have been joined by a number of prominent business leaders, many of whom traditionally support Republican candidates and causes.
All are wooing a small number of Republican senators, most of them political moderates from suburban or urban districts, without whose support the legislation has no chance of passing. But not a single Senate Republican has expressed support for the measure. While advocates are focused on them, the Republicans say they are focused on Mr. Long. Lose his support, some Republican lawmakers fear, and they could lose the Senate.
“That fear of God he can put into people as a party leader is important,” said Martin J. Golden, a Republican state senator from Brooklyn who counts himself a friend and ally of Mr. Long, and who shares Mr. Long’s opposition to same-sex marriage.
And John J. Flanagan, a Long Island Republican who says he is opposed to same-sex marriage, but who is thought to be persuadable by some advocates, said Mr. Long’s message was clear.
“The strength of his message is its simplicity: ‘We think this is wrong, and we won’t support anybody who votes for it,’ ” Mr. Flanagan said.
At a time when the Republicans control no major elected post in New York, Mr. Long’s Conservatives have not only survived, but also thrived. Founded in 1962 by activists determined to nudge New York’s Republican Party to the right, the Conservative Party today counts about 147,000 New Yorkers as members, most of them in upstate and suburban counties.
Bolstered by Tea Party activism, the party’s share of the statewide vote surged in 2010: close to a quarter-million New Yorkers voted on the Conservative line last November. That helped Conservative-endorsed Republicans win nine seats in the State Assembly and a half-dozen in Congress that were previously held by Democrats.
Presiding over it all is Mr. Long, a former Marine and small-business owner who got his start in politics as a volunteer for Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign. Mr. Long, a former New York City councilman, has been the party’s chairman and guiding spirit since the late 1980s, an unrelenting advocate for smaller government, lower taxes and the defense of socially conservative values.
A gruff power broker, he often conducted his political business by phone from the back of Long’s Discount Wines and Liquors, the store he ran for a quarter-century before selling it a few years ago. His annual spring fund-raising dinner at the Manhattan Sheraton and winter political action conference in Albany are must-attend events for Republicans, and even some Democrats.
“He’s a man of his word, and his handshake is one of the last handshakes completely trusted in New York politics,” said Bruce N. Gyory, a Democratic political consultant and adjunct professor of political science at the University at Albany. “And when he makes a threat, it counts.”
Mr. Long’s opposition has been a source of frustration for same-sex marriage supporters.
“We would be disappointed if the Conservative Party would take what should be a vote of conscience and turn it strictly into a political calculus,” said Ross D. Levi, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, New York’s principal gay rights organization.
Mr. Long is not without a pragmatic streak. He backed Rick A. Lazio, a middle-of-the-road Republican, for governor last year, dismissing the conservative businessman Carl P. Paladino, a favorite of some Tea Party activists, as “more of a caricature than a candidate.” But when Mr. Paladino won the Republican primary, Mr. Long switched course and swung skeptical party leaders behind him. In recent months, Mr. Long has praised Mr. Cuomo for refusing to raise taxes in this year’s state budget and for pushing for a cap on local property taxes.
Mr. Long describes his opposition to same-sex marriage firmly but without heat. He bears no ill will toward gay men and lesbians, Mr. Long said, and believes they, like anyone, should be free to live as they wish. Asked whether any of his own family members or children were gay, Mr. Long brushed the question aside. “I have nine children,” he said. “And there’s not one that I do not honor, respect and love. And that’s my answer.”
But Mr. Long said he believed that legalizing gay unions would undermine an institution that is “part of the rock of our society.”
Some fellow conservatives have lobbied him to soften his position, Mr. Long said. But same-sex marriage, Mr. Long said, is one of only two issues—the other is so-called partial-birth abortion—in which his party can brook no compromise.
“I can’t go around life making everything a deal breaker,” he said. “But there are certain things that you have to stand for. If we don’t stand for this, then why are we in business?”
James P. writes: