By Lauren Tetenbaum Last week, New York Governor David Paterson directed all state agencies to revise their policies and regulations to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. Itâ€™s about time New York made such a stride.
As a native Manhattanite, New York State laws frequently strike me as bizarre. From the race-biased Rockefeller drug laws to the anachronistic lack of no-fault divorce (more on that later), State laws often do not reflect the more liberal politics and ways of life of New York City. The fact that same-sex unions were not recognized at all in New York until Governor Patersonâ€™s May 14, 2008 directive boggles my mind.
Call me super-liberal (Iâ€™ll probably admit to that), but I have never understood how â€œpro-family advocatesâ€ (i.e., anti-gay rights advocates) could possibly justify prohibiting gay marriage. People are people. How can a person correctly say that certain people deserve fewer rights than others, just because of their sexual orientation? To emphasize, we live in a country that separates (or is supposed to) church and state. Religious beliefs about â€œman and wifeâ€ should not bear any relation to state laws regarding access to allâ€”unlimitedâ€”spousal rights. I believe that there should not even be distinct terms, as â€œseparate but equalâ€ clearly does not give rise to full equality.
When I was a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania, I conducted research for a womenâ€™s law course and wrote an angry paper about the sad state of our countryâ€™s gay marriage laws. I compared the United States to the progressive laws of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Canada (see full paper attached). In the five years since I wrote this paper, the US has had some, but too little, change in this area. California recently joined Massachusetts as the only states in which same-sex couples can obtain a marriage (in Vermont, homosexuals can enter civil unions, which give the same benefits as heterosexual marriage under this different term).
Now New York will finally recognize these marriages. This is a long-awaited step in the right direction. However, as Empire State Pride Agendaâ€™s executive director Alan Van Capelle said in the New York Times article, â€œ[This] is a temporary but necessary fix for a longer-term problem, which is marriage equality in New York State.â€ There is room for improvement, New Yorkers. Letâ€™s change the law and be the trendsetter everyone believes New York to be.
If you want to show your encouragement for this new NY regulation, please call Governor Patersonâ€™s phone line at (518) 474-8390 between normal business hours, give your zip code, and say: â€œI support the directive supporting same-sex marriage!â€