You Can Thank a Few Rich Libertarians for Gay Marriage

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How do you get rich Republicans to support gay marriage? By appealing to their libertarian sensibilities. The New York Times is out with its lyrical, 2,000-plus-word tick-tock of how the gay-marriage fight was won, and it centers on a meeting between Governor Cuomo's aides and Republican donors. Amid tuna and turkey sandwiches a few weeks ago, the governor's aides tested whether billionaire Paul Singer and hedge-fund managers Cliff Asness and Dan Loeb would be willing to support the cause. Surprisingly they were, since they were "inclined to see the issue as one of personal freedom, consistent with their more libertarian views."

With their help (read: $1 million plus) gay-rights groups could tell the four Republican senators who took a leap of faith and voted yes to the bill that there'd be money to catch their fall. Certainly, the politicking by a governor with a "relentlessly strategic mind" who "had achieved what seemed like modern-day miracles by the standards of Albany," as the Times piece describes Cuomo, certainly helped, as well. (The article makes Cuomo out to be the gay community's messiah.) But if we've learned anything about Albany the past few years, it's that money and fear run that place. And when you can use one to assuage the other, you're on the right track. Which is what made those Republican donors so crucial. Whenever the Conservative Party threatened they'd pull support of Republicans who said yes, Singer, Asness, and Loeb were a symbolic counterexample.

And all because they lean libertarian. Or should we say, liberaltarian, a term that's floated around Washington for a while as a sort of aspirational idiom. The hope among bi-partisan types used to be that libertarians would veer so far from Republican orthodoxy they'd end up on the Democrats' side, or vice versa, as seen in Democrat Alan Grayson's fraught political career.

Gay marriage has always been an ideal niche for liberaltarians. After all, it's the states, not the feds, that are the ones deciding whether it should be legal, a question that feeds into libertarians' federalist affinities. And when you strip away the cultural and identity politics, gay marriage is really just a fight about whether the government should be allowed to regulate personal liberty. On that, again, libertarians side with liberals.

When it's laid out like that, it's a wonder gay marriage isn't a cause celebre at Republican-controlled state houses countrywide. But of course it doesn't work quite like that outside of thought experiments. Those cultural and identity politics don't fade away easily. And certainly not for less than $1 million.

The Road to Gay Marriage in New York [NYT]