There has been much talk suggesting that the marriage vote in the New York statehouse was a democratic triumph. But even in New York, there was reason for Democrats to believe that this was their safest bet, that putting it to the voters wouldn’t have worked out for gay-marriage advocates.
Pollster John McLaughlin, who is based in his native New York, raises the question: “If they had brought the gay marriage bill to a public referendum, I don’t think it would have passed.” He continues:
No state has ever passed it via referendum. Even California saw Proposition 8 fail. The fact that Governor Cuomo pushed it through without a referendum, which would have taken two consecutive years for the legislature to authorize, just shows that he and his allies were concerned that it wouldn’t pass — especially if it faced a two-year public debate.
Gay marriage often over-polls its approval levels. People sense the media is pro-gay-marriage and either say they are for it or undecided, when they are not. Prop 8 failed due to majority African American, Latino, and Asian American opposition. A New York referendum would have been very important. Now we’ll never know.