Analysis: How did gay marriage become NY law?

How did New York lawmakers, long known for their decades of late budgets and partisan gridlock, manage to pull off a generational milestone like legalizing gay marriage?

Friday night’s victory for gay marriage advocates was the product of changing public attitudes, and a political campaign that was more sophisticated, better funded, and armed with more tenacious muscle — in the person of Gov. Andrew Cuomo — than a similar push that failed just two years ago.

Advocates spent more than $1 million trying to persuade legislators, much of it in the last two months. They targeted their publicity campaign at a dozen vulnerable or fence-sitting senators. Most of the cash came from what one lobbyist called an “unlimited” source: wealthy contributors in Manhattan and nationwide.

The Human Rights Campaign, part of a coalition of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender groups, delivered more than 53,000 post cards and made more than 11,000 phone calls from constituents to their senators. Phone banks ran twice a week, one featuring former first daughter Chelsea Clinton. She was just one of a string of celebrities, from Lady Gaga to former New York Giants great Michael Strahan, who peppered the public with gay marriage messages.

Gay marriage advocates hired 30 full-time field organizers to press their case. Other critical hires were lobbying firms that specialized in Republican politics, a mix that opened doors in the Republican-controlled Senate.

The opponents of gay marriage weren’t unarmed, just less so. For example, while groups opposed to gay marriage spent less than $100,000 on a TV ad buy in June, the gay marriage coalition spent more than $400,000, according to the Human Rights Campaign. A $1 million commitment from a national group opposed to gay marriage just didn’t seem to register as loudly in Albany.

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