What Can We Learn From New York’s Gay Marriage Victory?

On June 24, New York became the largest state in the nation to recognize gay marriage. According to a New York Times article, the state government approved it by 33 “for” votes to 29 “against.” Four Republicans ended up becoming the deciding votes by basing their decisions on their personal and professional feelings, rather then voting the party line. Had it not been for them, the vote could have been deadlocked.

Even Senator Mark J. Grisanti from Buffalo chose to remain undeclared after, by his own admission, struggling with his own party and with his personal opinions. He stated that he could not deny a fellow New Yorker the same basic rights he and his wife enjoy.

In executive coaching, it’s important to come to terms with change. What was once taboo can actually be accepted in time. Our values, opinions and goals may evolve. Humility and respect are often integral values involved in personal and professional growth.

New York’s groundbreaking civil-rights breakthrough can teach us a number of executive coaching lessons:

  • Though we may feel offended, or disagree with what’s popular, we must consider respectfully tolerating our differences.
  • For Senators like Grisanti, it became increasingly difficult to find a clear legislative reason to vote against gay marriage. If we don’t like a person, or group of people, it helps to ask why we don’t and if our position is reasonable. Quiet introspection is a very potent coaching tool.
  • According to the article, a statewide poll revealed the proportion of residents in New York supporting gay marriage ballooned from 37% in 2004 to 58% at the start of 2011. Society continues to change and evolve. Accepting changes over time may help us accept those we used to consider so different from us.
  • Lastly, remember legalization of marriage in one state is only one big step on this particular civil-rights front – an important one, but one that needs to become accepted more on a national level to have greater impact on the culture at large. This relates to the concepts of follow-up and maintenance in executive coaching – as you achieve new goals at work and in life, it’s important to stay focused on what’s ahead.

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