Ken Mehlman with President Bush in 2006.(Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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In N.Y., Gay Marriage Came Courtesy GOP Jews

Staunch Republicans still backed Democratic measure

Marc Tracy
June 29, 2011
Ken Mehlman with President Bush in 2006.(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

In Michael Barbaro’s definitive narrative of how gay marriage was passed in New York, Andrew Cuomo savvily harnessed his own popularity, his constituents’ support, and a few rich Republican machers to bring marriage equality to the third most populous state. The wild card there is those Republicans who helped hand a Democratic governor a gigantic substantive and political victory.

Do I need to tell you what those few Republicans tend to have in common?

JTA’s Ron Kampeas noticed a month ago that several prominent Jewish Republican New Yorkers were backing same-sex marriage, and indeed, the three Republicans mentioned up top in Barbaro’s article as having worked most closely with Cuomo—the financiers Peter Singer, Cliff Asness, and Daniel Loeb—are all mentioned by Kampeas. As is the financier Steven A. Cohen. As is Ken Mehlman, the 2004 Bush campaign director, a Jewish gay man who tried to sell Republican state senators on gay marriage and who, in the weeks leading up to last Friday’s historic vote, lobbied several one-on-one, including all four who jumped across the aisle to vote yea.

Moreover, while National Review’s The Corner was freaking out over the Armageddon of adults being permitted to marry whomever they choose (“We are witnessing tyranny today that is fostered by a false sense of freedom,” wrote former site editor Kathryn Jean Lopez), the sole post on Commentary’s Contentions blog about the vote saw its author praising New York for enacting gay marriage “by legislation rather than judicial fiat” and applauding Cuomo (albeit at the expense of his father, the liberal hero Mario). Prominent Jewish conservative David Frum admitted, “I was wrong about same-sex marriage.” (And let’s not forget that Sen. Joe Lieberman was pivotal to allowing gays to serve openly in the military.) It truly is fitting that the decisive vote for gay marriage was delivered by a Jewish Republican. Why are Jews liberals? Maybe because of moments like this?

Anyway, if President Obama’s perceived stance on Israel is valid grounds for questioning whether he will win Jewish votes in 2012, then it is also legitimate to ask whether the Republican presidential candidate’s position against gay marriage—no matter who it is, he or she will have to be against it to win the nomination—might threaten his or her standing with Jewish voters in the general. It didn’t stop Mehlman from helping Bush, who endorsed a Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage (although Mehlman did not come out until the Obama presidency). But with this issue more prominent, voters’ hands could be forced.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.

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