If the nation's highest court had by chance proclaimed same-sex marriage a constitutional right four years ago, the State Senate careers of certain New York Republicans might have been spared.
But it didn't work out that way.
Stephen Saland was first elected a state senator from Poughkeepsie in 1990. In 2011, he delivered a key vote to legalize same-sex nuptials in the state. As a result, he was targeted the following year in a GOP primary. Saland survived it, but then lost a razor-close election to Democrat Terry Gipson. Conservative Party candidate Neil DiCarlo acted as spoiler, drawing more than 14 percent of the vote.
The U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 5-4 ruling came Friday. Setting the law of the land takes the onus off local lawmakers who were dealing state-by-state with this highly charged issue. That's too late for members such as Saland in New York, who risked electoral backlash.
Reached after the high court ruling, Saland, 71, said he felt a degree of vindication.
He said he received emails about the decision while vacationing in the Finger Lakes. "I'm extremely pleased. I honestly believe what we did in New York was pivotal," Saland said. "It was a watershed moment. And I'm pleased I had the opportunity to play a role in it."
Asked if he misses the fray, Saland replied: "My wife and I are about to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary, and I've come to enjoy a quality of life I'd forgotten was out there."
New York became the sixth state to allow same-sex marriage four years ago this week. Saland was one of four Republicans in the house who voted yes, allowing the measure to pass.
Three of these four senators were gone by the end of 2012: Saland; Roy McDonald of Saratoga County, who lost a Republican primary; and James Alesi of Monroe County, who chose not to run.
Mark Grisanti of Buffalo, the fourth GOP yes vote on gay marriage, won re-election in 2012, but lost a Republican primary last year.
Then-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) allowed the floor vote but voted no. New Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) also voted against the bill, along with the rest of Long Island's all-GOP delegation.
The bill cleared the Senate at the time by a minimum 33-29. Of the Democrats, only Rubén Díaz Sr. of the Bronx voted, with most Republicans, against the measure.
For practical purposes, that's now a footnote.