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Editorial: Roy McDonald, a political casualty of same-sex marriage

Then-Assemblyman Roy McDonald talks on the phone during

Then-Assemblyman Roy McDonald talks on the phone during a legislative session break at the state Capitol in Albany, N.Y. Now a state senator, McDonald, who voted to legalize gay marriage in New York and shot back at conservative critics that they could "take this job and shove it," has apparently lost his primary. Credit: AP, 2008

The story of Sen. Roy McDonald of Saratoga, who lost his GOP primary bid in large part because of his crucial vote last year to pass New York State's marriage equality law, has lessons for the future of the same-sex marriage movement and for the political party that abandoned him.

The McDonald saga shows there are elected officials who will act out of courage and conviction to address the civil rights issue of our time. McDonald says he is proud of his vote and has no regrets. The outcome of his race should have no impact on the national same-sex marriage movement.

He was one of four Republicans who voted for the law. Two other senators, Mark Grisanti of Buffalo and Stephen Saland of Poughkeepsie, defeated primary challengers who made marriage the main issue. The fourth, James Alesi of Monroe County, was embroiled in a bizarre and unrelated personal injury lawsuit and decided not to seek re-election.

McDonald's defeat three weeks ago by those seeking revenge for his vote of conscience, however, highlights the problems of the Republican Party nationwide.

Instead of accepting that some Republicans might support same-sex marriage, conservative activists want to purge those who stray from party doctrine. But in attempting to purify the party, the GOP risks wrecking it.

Their small-mindedness stands in contrast to McDonald, who stepped away from a third-party candidacy yesterday to give Republicans a better chance of keeping their slim Senate majority.