By Donna Lieberman — I felt a growing sense of enthusiasm as we entered the final weeks of the legislative session that New York was about to recognize marriage rights for all New Yorkers – including lesbian and gay couples.
And then came the political coup in the Senate. With what now appears to be a 31-31 deadlock between the Democrats and Republicans, there will be tough negotiations over what makes it to the Senate floor for a vote.
This much is certain, the first order of business for legislators concerned about fundamental rights and liberties is to pass the marriage fairness bill.
New Yorkers are justly proud of our cosmopolitan and forward-thinking reputation. But when it comes to marriage laws, we have a long way to go to catch up to Spain, South Africa, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts and ... um, Iowa.
Sure, New York recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other states and countries. But New Yorkers shouldn’t have to leave town to say, "I do."
That's why the New York Civil Liberties Union recently launched MarriageNY.com, a website that helps New Yorkers easily reach out to their senators to tell them to support the marriage bill. The site tells the stories of New Yorkers like Tom Wolfe, a Suffolk County police officer who went to Massachusetts to get married:
“I know I want to spend the rest of my life with Santiago because any time I think of the future, he’s always part of it. There’s never a moment that I don’t think of retirement, of children, of trips – of anything – where he’s not part of it.”
This bill is about real families with real concerns – about being able to visit loved ones in the hospital, participate in children's education, or get insurance coverage so the kids can go to the doctor. New Yorkers know that it puts all families at risk when the government gets in the business of saying that some families matter and deserve protection and some families don’t. Being able to get married – and protect your partner and your children – is a matter of human dignity.
That’s why the New York State Assembly – Democrats and Republicans alike – voted overwhelmingly to pass the marriage bill. And that’s why the governor has pledged to sign it. It’s good policy. And it’s about civil marriage only – the state's authority to issue a piece of paper. It will not require religious institutions or clergy members to perform any marriages they don’t want to.
Marriage is not a partisan issue. It’s time for New York to take a stand for fairness, for justice and for all families, including Tom’s. Visit www.MarriageNY.com.
Donna Lieberman is the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.