Well I’m not about to break out into song with “Get Me to the Church—uh actually, Synagogue—On Time” but New York Governor David Paterson’a recent directive to state agencies to recognize same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions has gotten my toe tapping.
My partner, Lynn, and I have always said that when same-sex marriage is legal in New York State that’s when we’ll get married. Our concern has always been getting all the rights and responsibilities we’re due—like filing our state taxes jointly or having unfettered access to one another when either of us is in a hospital or another type of care facility.
After being together for 13 years—our anniversary is in a few weeks—we already consider ourselves married. Both of our names are on our mortgage and house insurance, we’ve named each other in our health care proxies and our wills, we wake up in the same bed each morning and we’ve raised a son together with his father and step-mother who has turned out to be a real mensch. If that’s not married, I don’t know what is—except, of course, for all the legal stuff that straight folks take for granted.
But now, despite the fact that we can’t say “I Do” legally in New York, our governor has decided to do all he can to pave the way for marriage equality in the Empire State. On May 14th, the governor’s legal counsel, David Nocenti, instructed all state agencies that same-sex couples married elsewhere “should be afforded the same recognition as any other legally performed union.”
There are 1,324 statues and regulations in New York State that will be affected. They run the gamut from the very serious such as filing our tax returns jointly to being eligible for workers compensation death benefits and immunity from having to testify against a spouse in court to the more recreational such as transferring fishing licenses between spouses.
If you want a full run down of all the rights and responsibilities us same-sex couples are missing, go to the Empire State Pride Agenda’s website, www.prideagenda.org and click the red box entitled “1,324 Reasons for Marriage Equality in New York State.” You’ll download a 108 page report co-authored by the Pride Agenda and the New York City Bar Association detailing exactly what, up to this point, we haven’t been entitled to because we can’t get married. But with Governor Paterson’s order, same-sex couples who marry in Canada or California will soon be able to afford themselves of those rights and responsibilities. Only same-sex couples who are legal residents of Massachusetts can actually get married there so lesbian and gay New Yorkers must either go north or west to tie the knot.
When Governor Paterson sent a videotaped message to the Pride Agenda’s annual spring dinner in Rochester on May 17th, he described his action as “a strong step toward marriage equality.” What his action has done is move New York closer to fully legalizing same-sex unions.
Last year, then Governor Eliot Spitzer introduced his own program bill to legalize same-sex marriage in New York. That bill was passed by the New York State Assembly 85-61. The State Senate never took action on the bill. Whether the bill will come up for a vote again this year still remains to be seen but when it passes both houses Paterson is ready to take his pen and sign it into law. I don’t think that will happen this year but it is a distinct possibility after this fall’s presidential race.
No matter who the Democratic presidential nominee is, New York State will vote democratic. With an expected landslide on the D side of the voting machines and the New York State Democratic Senate Campaign Committee in better shape than it’s ever been, we just may see the Democrats take control of the State Senate. With both the Assembly and the Senate in Democratic hands and Governor Paterson in the executive’s seat, it is quite likely that New York will legalize same-sex marriage in the next few years.
So our dilemma is . . . should we wait until it’s really real in New York State or find our way to California beginning June 17th when same sex couples can start marrying there? Lynn’s cousin has already offered her home outside of LA and Disneyland as a honeymoon destination is quite appealing—at least to me. I won’t start singing but perhaps humming the Lerner and Loewe classic may just be the right note to hit!