(Homo)Sex and the City

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. It’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 Paterson’s May 14, 2008 directive boggles my mind.

Call me super-liberal (I’ll probably admit to that), but I have never understood how “pro-family advocates” (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 “man and wife” should not bear any relation to state laws regarding access to all—unlimited—spousal rights. I believe that there should not even be distinct terms, as “separate but equal” clearly does not give rise to full equality.

When I was a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania, I conducted research for a women’s law course and wrote an angry paper about the sad state of our country’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 Agenda’s executive director Alan Van Capelle said in the New York Times article, “[This] is a temporary but necessary fix for a longer-term problem, which is marriage equality in New York State.” There is room for improvement, New Yorkers. Let’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 Paterson’s phone line at (518) 474-8390 between normal business hours, give your zip code, and say: “I support the directive supporting same-sex marriage!”