At the outset of the last election Mark Grisanti and I had lunch. As he was seeking my support for his election, I asked the candidate several questions. At the top of that list was his position on same-sex marriage. The position of Grisanti’s predecessor was that homosexual marriage was “. . . immoral, unethical, but should be legal.”
Mr. Grisanti clearly stated that, while he would vote for civil unions, I could be sure he would never vote for “anything that had the word ‘marriage’ in it.” Mr. Grisanti committed himself, in the strongest terms possible, to people desiring a senator who would defend traditional marriage.
At that same lunch meeting I told the senator-to-be the same thing I tell all politicians with whom I work, “You don’t have to always agree with me; just don’t lie to me.” A politician who lets their “yea” be “yea” and their “nay” be “nay” may be rare, but he is the kind of person I can respect. Integrity and trustworthiness are key issues when you seek the support of people in the political process.
We supported Mr. Grisanti, and he called upon that help several times during the election. I was there watching the vote come in when our Island put him over the top. I was there in Albany to celebrate his inauguration. I’ve spoken with the senator on this issue repeatedly since he took office. I’ve been assured by him personally and been asked to assure others that he’d never vote for anything with the word “marriage” in it. Mark committed himself to that position, even while saying publically he was studying the issue, was torn, and was undecided. As recently as 11 days before the vote was taken, Mark was firm in this position.
So what happened? Is this a matter of conscience? Whenever the topic of marriage is brought up, the senator refers to his Catholic faith. As a practicing Catholic, his moral code tells him his vote is wrong. That must be the answer of conscience for any observant Catholic.
What happened, was it the result of careful reflection? Mr. Grisanti says that his training as a lawyer caused him to vote “yes.” Was the senator recently admitted to the bar? Is he a novice in the legal profession, just getting his feet under him? Of course not. It’s not that we want people in Albany who are robots, unable to think for themselves. It’s just that we want people who campaign to consider carefully the issues of the day. Of course we want people who can think about the issues; it’s just that we want them to think about them before they go to Albany. We want them to think about them carefully before they make promises, or they shouldn’t make them.
We want people who keep their word; it’s that simple. Any senator clearly declaring his position and asking for our vote owes it to us to keep his word. If he can no longer vote as he promised, he owes it to us to abstain until he comes home, declares his new position and seeks the will of the electorate to return him to office with a new mandate. The main question people voice to me is simply, “How will we ever be able to trust anything else he says?” It’s a matter of integrity. People who know about those things keep asking me, “How much is your word worth?” I guess we will just have to watch and see. Quietly, the senator has suggested that the governor can be very helpful in his district.
Supposedly, this is a non-political position. Polls, calls to party leaders looking for support, calculations from staff about campaign funding and redistricting might suggest otherwise. But political corruption? No! That’s just how politics works. It’s just that I thought our citizen-senator wasn’t a politician. I guess that changed too!
– Dr. Kevin Backus