Except, you know what -- it's not. And, what's more, won't ever be.
For all the legislature's grandeur and power, and the fervent encouragement of The New York Times, no aggregation of human beings enjoys the power to redefine marriage.
What New York has done, amid much trumpeting and self-congratulation, is create a secular-political institution and give it, spuriously, the name of marriage, according to whose regulations two men may join themselves to each other as may two women.
It's a sad and shabby charade, with consequences that will likely prove proportionate to New York's size, population and megalomania.
New York's lawmakers have taken upon themselves an authority that all previous generations ascribed to God. The legislature's calculation was that the 21st century has needs beyond the comprehension of generations that failed to see gay marriage as a matter of social justice. After last week's vote, The New York Times quoted Gov. Andrew Cuomo as thus compressing the matter. "Their love" -- that is, the love of gay couples -- "is worth the same as your love. Their partnership is worth the same as your partnership. And they are equal in your eyes to you. That is the driving issue."
Yes, indeed -- the issue driving the decision to set up a whole new institution and label it "marriage." New York State's decision enjoys standing and respect in the eyes of all who think Reality is a concept politicians can rejigger to their own satisfaction. No one else has any obligation to pay the New York megalomaniacs the slightest heed.
The normative understanding of marriage is rooted not in political pressure and horse-trading, but in what might quaintly be called the natural law: the law of that's-how-things-are.
We ourselves are male and female. Male and female are different. So are they complementary. Brought together, they make up a whole. The marriage that's in our bones, culturally speaking and religiously speaking, is the institution that perfects and maintains wholeness for the good of the couple and for the creation and projection of new life.
Formerly New York State understood this truth. Formerly all states did -- all societies, all entities pretending to the attributes of civilization. Political entities no more than ratified and regulated what God and Nature were believed to have put firmly in place. The political fraternity had a certain becoming modesty in days of old.
What happened? A lot of things did, but the clamor that arose in the 1960s for individual autonomy (a/k/a "What I Say Goes!") is a convenient starting point for examination.
An intellectually sloppy and devitalized era that valued Self more than it esteemed some-ol'-God-out-there-in-space couldn't think of a single reason that people who clamored for "justice" shouldn't have it. Same-sex marriage came under that heading once the political power of the gay lobby waxed and that of the religious community waned. Bring on the politicians! -- the vote-seekers, the money-raisers, the Cuomos, the New York lawmakers in whose hungry mouths butter refused to melt as they pretended to reinvent marriage.
Thus, for the first time in history, two institutions, both known to their practitioners as marriage, lie oddly alongside each other: in New York and a growing if still gratifyingly small number of states. The institution that brings unity out of difference is of course the real one, rooted in Nature. The other is phonier than a Bernie Madoff cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die.
In the end, reality trumps fantasy, which is why New York's experiment in moral Madoff-ism will shrivel and die. But how long before it does? And after what number of disasters in the lives of real human beings looking to their culture for guidance?
Playing with real people's real lives and offering cheap and transitory satisfactions for the sake of political gain is more the mark of fascism than of American democracy. Or at least it once was.