Why We (Still) Love New York

New York, New York, you broke our heart last week. That's right. You smashed it into a million pieces. Like any long-term relationship where the spooning at night has become as natural as the snoring later, it took us a couple of days to fully assess the damage. Hell, who are we kidding? It took a couple of days to realize you were actually even serious.

We thought we were on the road to marriage. You were bright. You were beautiful. You were worldly. You were sophisticated. You had a way of welcoming us all, especially those of us who love New York passionately, but will never be New Yorkers, whatever our point of origin. You were everything we'd ever dreamed of. We were expecting to take it to the next level, make a real commitment. Grow old together. We'd even welcomed your eclectic family of outlying boroughs, towns, and cities. They were mispacha. They were famiglia. They had us at the "NY" before the zip code, because they made us think of you.

We had the ring in our pocket, New York, but you had other plans. Last Wednesday, your state senate defeated the marriage equality bill by a margin of 24-38. It wasn't even close. And later, when our friends asked us if we didn't see it coming, we looked at them blankly, with tears in our eyes, and said, "No, we really didn't. We seriously thought we were good together." Did we take you for granted? Is that it?

Come on, New York. This isn't you. You're better than that.

In the heart-stopping grief following 9/11, the world stood in awe of the way you pulled together as a city. You bore your grief with such stoic grace. Later, while flyover-state preachers and opportunistic Washington politicians at the highest levels picked the gristle from their teeth and sniffed the wind for oil, blood, and billions, perfectly content to leverage your tragedy for their various economic, religious, military, and political agendas, you were already getting on with your life, with dignity.

Later still, while late-night television carpetbaggers hawked everything from Ground Zero graveyard dirt to "9/11 commemorative coins," and necon Baba Yaga Ann Coulter hit a home run in the cruelty World Series by mocking 9/11 widows as "enjoying their husbands' deaths," you were inviolable.

There are so many reasons to love you, New York, besides the obvious ones.

For example, because a snowstorm in February in Central Park can be as beautiful as those autumn days when the air tastes like it was uncorked and poured from a champagne bottle. The light in the Village on those fall afternoons rivals Paris and makes you want to be in love. Because after a time, the constant sussration of traffic and car horns affects us like the sound of waves on a beach at night. Because of the scent of the roasted chestnuts from the street vendors' carts tells visitors that they're "back home" in New York again. Because New Yorkers are expected to be rude and standoffish, but usually aren't. Because New York is about museums, galleries, theaters, and libraries, not megachurches.

Because, in New York, it wouldn't be hard to imagine disgraced beauty queen, home-video goodtime gal, and avatar of traditional Christian morality, Carrie Prejean, being given a thong-wedgie by gaunt poetesses, or intellectuals in dark turtlenecks, in the locker room at the New School the minute she opened her yap about "opposite marriage," because in New York it takes more than a pair of pageant-bought fake breasts, a fake tan, and a mean streak, to be any kind of success. Because New York is where smart people come to make a big life, not where stupid people go to become famous. Because New York is not La Jolla.

Because the Statue of Liberty has been a beacon of hope and freedom for generations of European immigrants who dreamed of a place where they could be free to pursue life, liberty, and happiness, and raise their families with dignity, in the same spirit that their LGBT grandchildren and great-grandchildren do today as they pursue the right to legal recognition of their families through equal marriage.

For many of them (including my maternal grandparents) that place was New York State. For the luckiest of them, it was New York City itself. Because over the course of your history, the multicultural, multinational, multiethnic tributaries that have flowed into New York have formed one of the most vibrant and exciting cities on earth, and one whose citizens have somehow found a way to get along, as New Yorkers.

Because we believe that the true spirit of New York was articulated in the powerful, righteous, moral eloquence of Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson in the speech she gave about how her gay brother was forced to live and die in France because of the religious intolerance within his own family. Because we don't believe that the true spirit of New York was articulated in the craven pandering of Queens Senator Hiram Monserrate, who voted against equal marriage for LGBT couples, and was later involved in an altercation with his girlfriend that required more than 20 stitches over her left eye (and the senator himself sentenced to 3 years probation for assault) but left marriage in New York "traditional," ie: safely out of the hands of loving gay and lesbian couples seeking equal recognition for their families under the law.

And among the reasons we love New York is this one. We know that the best of you are appalled by what happened last week. We know you'll do a Google search for the names of the senators who voted against equal marriage for their fellow New Yorkers -- your sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, and friends. We know you'll remember them in the midterm elections, and we know you'll remind them of what they did. We know you'll tell them you'd like your reputation back.

You're the New Jerusalem, the shining city on the hill. If the rest of the country holds you to a higher standard on this issue, and feels this loss of yours personally, it's because, throughout history, you've been where some of the best and the brightest have gone to try make the American dream something other than just a dream.

You're New York, for God's sake. Don't let NOM's Maggie Gallagher use you, as she already has, to threaten other enlightened, pro-equality states come election time, like some toxic birthday clown with fistful of black balloons scaring children at the party.

You're a succulent apple, New York. Seriously. You're the best we ever had. You complete us. Let's see if we can move forward together. It's not worth letting this get between us just so Sarah Palin can feel like you're finally part of "the real America."