by Lynn Parramore
The legislative victory for same-sex marriage was inspiration. But where’s the support for women’s fundamental rights?
Alva Vanderbilt Belmont once quipped, “Pray to God. She will help you.” Belmont was a suffragette who used her social standing to push for women’s rights in the early 1900s. She also had something else to use: money. And she wasn’t afraid to throw it around to influence politics, donating big bucks to the suffrage movement and founding the Political Equality League to drum up votes for suffrage-supporting New York State politicos.
If she were around today, Belmont would have found it pretty exciting to watch Governor Cuomo’s fancy footwork on same sex marriage unfold as he mastered the dance of the quid pro quo. The giant photo in the New York Times showing gazillionaires huddled around Cuomo’s desk said it all: The passage of the trailblazing law legalizing same sex marriage in New York was the result of Big Money talking to legislators and saying, “do this and ye shall be rewarded.”
So how do we make it pay today to be on the right side of women’s issues? Part of it is finding common ground. Some of the NY Republican donors had relatives who were gay, which, they said, put a human face on the struggle for equality. Wealthy Republican men also undoubtedly have sisters who have needed abortions, daughters who have faced discrimination, and wives who have required flex time at work when they have children. And, of course, some wealthy Republicans and influential pols are women themselves. In the current world of politics, however, money seems to speak louder than any other language. If we see such inspiring strides for gay Americans while women are under legislative siege, it’s because money in support of women’s rights is not being heard.