On Sunday's Weekend Edition, NPR's Jeff Brady spotlighted the first same-sex "marriage" in New York State and how local political and business leaders in Niagara Falls, where this first ceremony took place, hope to cater to the homosexual community. Only one sound bite during Brady's report came from an opponent to such ceremonies, and the correspondent failed to mention the protests against the new law across the state.
The correspondent devoted the first half of his report to Kitty Lambert and Cheryl Rudd, two lesbians from Buffalo who were the first same-sex couple legally recognized by New York State. According to Brady, the two have been "advocating for gay marriage for at least seven years," and, unlike many couples, chose to have their cake-cutting and dancing before the actual ceremony.
BRADY: Getting married at midnight requires some creative scheduling. So, for Kitty Lambert and Cheryl Rudd's wedding, cutting the cake came before they tied the knot.
KITTY LAMBERT: Okay, go. (crowd cheers and applauds)
BRADY: And then came a little dancing to Lady Gaga (sound bite of singer Lady Gaga's music) And finally, the actual marriage ceremony. Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster learned that hitting your mark at the exact second isn't always easy.
MAYOR PAUL DYSTER, NIAGARA FALLS, NEW YORK: By the power vested in me by the laws of the State of New York-
UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1: I'll tell you when it's midnight. (crowd laughs) 12 o'clock- go.
DYSTER: I now pronounce you legally married. (crowd cheers)
BRADY: Most New York couples have to wait 24 hours after receiving the license to have their marriage ceremony, but Lambert and Rudd received a waiver. They're both grandmothers in their 50's living in Buffalo, and they've been advocating for gay marriage for at least seven years. Lambert says she wanted to be the first same-sex couple to be legally married in New York.
LAMBERT: With that, and honestly- come on, look at her. Isn't she amazing? I don't want to wait a minute longer than I have to. (Rudd laughs) Not a second longer than I have to.
CHERYL RUDD: Why thank you, baby.
LAMBERT: You're so welcome.
After playing a sound bite from a woman in attendance who "wanted to be a part of history," the NPR journalist played his sole clip from an opponent of same-sex "marriage" who also owns a local wedding business. But he followed this with two sound bites from the mayor, who boosted Niagara Falls as a destination for homosexual couples:
BRADY: New York's law passed by only four votes in the state Senate, and there are many who still disagree with same-sex marriage. Among them, Reverend Peter Del Rio. He's affiliated with the United New Testament Church, and owns a business here called Weddings by the Falls. He was pleased that New York's law allows him to abstain from performing same-sex marriages.
REVEREND PETER DEL RIO, UNITED NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH: It was important to me, in that I was being recognized. A gay couple was being recognized and what they want to do. But I was also being recognized, and I like that. I like the fact that someone was actually recognizing who I was and gave me the freedom to say no.
BRADY: Del Rio says he declines the two to three inquiries he receives each day from same-sex couples. He's not worried about the lost business. But there are others around town who see opportunity. In recent decades, Niagara Falls has lost some of its luster for couples looking for a romantic place to get hitched.
DYSTER: And this is an opportunity, I think, for us to redefine Niagara Falls as a, you know, a very exciting place to get married.
BRADY: Mayor Paul Dyster says Niagara Falls could emerge again as a big marriage destination, especially since it's within driving distance of where a lot of people live.
DYSTER: With four dollar gas, this could be a very exotic, and yet, inexpensive place for same-sex couples now to come and get married from places like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and other places in the Midwest.
BRADY: As part of the town's push to host gay weddings, the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation has organized a group wedding for same-sex couples tomorrow. Four officiates will be on hand to marry couples, and afterward, there will be cake and champagne. Jeff Brady, NPR News, Niagara Falls.
Following Brady's report, host Linda Wertheimer brought on correspondent Tovia Smith to talks about the state-level and national efforts for and against same-sex "marriage." Smith, who highlighted a tax protest organized by homosexual activists back in April 2011 and devoted an entire report to the split over the marriage issue in the lesbian demographic earlier in July, unsurprisingly emphasized the supposedly "biggie" nature of New York State's move:
WERTHEIMER: So, how do these now-legal gay weddings in New York affect the larger battle over same-sex marriage?
SMITH: In some ways, you could say that it jacks it up, both inside New York and out. Within the state, opponents are now vowing to defeat what they call these 'Benedict Arnold' lawmakers, and they're trying to bring the issues to voters directly in a referendum. You may recall in the past, opponents objected to what they called the activist judges doing this. Now, they're objecting to what they call the corrupt legislative process. As they point out, every time gay marriage has come to a popular vote, it has lost. But in New York, anyway, that is a long and hard process to get the issue on the ballot.
But nationally, yes, New York is a biggie. Advocates are calling this a tipping point. New York doubles the number of Americans living in states where gay marriage is legal, and, as more people live with it and get used to seeing same-sex married couples, advocates say that that softens opposition and helps their case, and they're hoping New York encourages political support elsewhere, as it begins to appear that supporting gay marriage is less radical, less politically risky.
WERTHEIMER: It's probably fair to say that supporting gay marriage is less risky these days, given the way public opinion polls are going.
SMITH: For sure, public support for gay marriage, for the first time, has crossed into majority territory. It's at 53 percent or so, and more striking when you break it down by age. There's much more support among younger folks. That's somewhere around 70 percent. So, as advocates say, the writing is on the wall, and they're, perhaps, not the only ones taking note. It's interesting that, in stark contrast to even just a few years ago, you see a lot of elected officials now- on Capitol Hill this week at the hearing to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. On the campaign trail, a lot of opponents of gay marriage these days are playing the issue down, not up.
WERTHEIMER: So, do you think the shift in public opinion has been a real game changer- will be a real game changer on gay marriage?
SMITH: Especially so now- I think until now, gay marriage has come around, you know, through the courts and the legislatures. But we're getting into a new phase where gay marriage is, one way or another, headed for popular votes, and that's because most of the states that don't already have gay marriage do have either, an explicit ban- a Defense of Marriage Act- that would have to be overturned by voters, or they have a recall process. So, if lawmakers pass gay marriage, for example, a law would be immediately put to the test- a ballot initiative, for repeal, as we saw in Maine. So, if the past is any indication, we can expect some pretty heated fights around popular votes in the next couple of years.
WERTHEIMER: You talk about the Defense of Marriage Act. There were congressional hearings this week on whether the federal Defense of Marriage Act should be repealed. That bars federal recognition of gay marriage. Do you think something like that could happen?
SMITH: It's gaining momentum. You know, DOMA was signed by President Clinton, of course, 15 years ago. Now, President Obama is calling for repeal, and that would be significant in states where gay marriage is already legal, because federal recognition would mean that same-sex couples would get the whole loaf, as they say, not just half. They'd be married in the eyes of the federal government and get those benefits, as well as in the eyes of their state. But there are also broader, and even more high-stakes challenges to DOMA working their way through the federal courts- one from California arguing that the state DOMA violates the federal constitution; another from Massachusetts seeking federal recognition. Ultimately, this will all land at the U.S. Supreme Court in the not-so-distant future.