Volume 78 / Number 4 - June 25 - July 1, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Marriage within reach
As L.G.B.T. Pride Month culminates with this Sunday’s Fifth Ave. parade, there is much to celebrate. In the past month, Governor David Paterson has ordered all state agencies to develop a blueprint for ensuring that any gay or lesbian couple legally married outside New York will have their unions recognized as marriages here. And, after five years, a transgender civil rights bill has finally been approved by the Democratic-controlled State Assembly.
The governor’s action on marriage recognition was forward-thinking, bold, courageous — and entirely in line with an evolving pattern of administrative and judicial decisions in recent years. The city and state of New York, since 2004, have recognized out-of-state, same-sex marriages for purposes of their public employee pension funds. The state Civil Service Commission has applied the same principle to public employee health programs for the past year. Critically, in February, an appellate court in Buffalo concurred with that principle as well — finding unanimously that precedent clearly dictates that such marriages deserve to be protected in New York.
What the governor’s ruling means is that any gay couple who marry in California or Canada — or Spain, South Africa, Holland, Belgium or Norway, for that matter — will be eligible for and bound by the 1,324 rights and obligations that marriage in New York entails, exactly the same as if they had married here. As with Massachusetts and California, married gay and lesbian New Yorkers will not benefit from federal recognition — that is a battle that will not be fully engaged until political changes are effected in Washington.
Change is also required in Albany if the gender rights and marriage equality legislation are to become law. The Republican majority in the State Senate — even in the wake of Joe Bruno’s resignation as majority leader this week — is the obstacle to progress on either. Democrats will need to gain the two seats required to become the majority — and a few more for comfort — if the two bills are to make it to Paterson’s desk.
Part of what makes the governor’s marriage recognition so potent right now is the recent opening of marriage to gay couples in California. Given the law that Massachusetts has effectively barring out-of-state marriage by same-sex couples, most New Yorkers interested in marrying have been traveling to Canada.
New York gay couples can now marry in this country and have their unions recognized back home. As for efforts by anti-gay forces in California to turn back that state’s Supreme Court order, a loss would be devastating for America’s marriage equality movement, while a win would prove the nation is on the path to full equality.
Many New Yorkers will of course prefer to marry here — an achievable goal given the governor’s and State Assembly’s support, the State Senate’s shifting political fortunes and the idea’s growing acceptance in statewide polling. So, even more so this year, this Pride season is occasion for optimism but also a commitment to redoubled efforts.