Thursday, May 29, 2008

The State Of New York Plans To Recognize Same-Sex Marriage

Altho the state of New York doesn't yet allow same-sex marriages to be conducted in their territory, it is working towards becoming the first state that does not allow same-sex marriage to fully recognize same-sex marriages that take place in other States (and countries) within their borders. On May 14, Governor David A. Paterson issued a directive that all state agencies are to begin to revise their policies and regulations to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions, like Massachusetts, California and Canada:

In a directive issued on May 14, the governor's legal counsel, David Nocenti, instructed the agencies that gay couples married elsewhere "should be afforded the same recognition as any other legally performed union." The revisions are most likely to involve as many as 1,300 statutes and regulations in New York governing everything from joint filing of income tax returns to transferring fishing licenses between spouses. In a videotaped message given to gay community leaders at a dinner on May 17, Mr. Paterson described the move as "a strong step toward marriage equality." And people on both sides of the issue said it moved the state closer to fully legalizing same-sex unions in this state. "Very shortly, there will be hundreds and hundreds and hundreds, and probably thousands and thousands and thousands of gay people who have their marriages recognized by the state," said Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell, a Democrat who represents the Upper West Side and has pushed for legalization of gay unions. Massachusetts and California are the only states that have legalized gay marriage, while others, including New Jersey and Vermont, allow civil unions. Forty-one states have laws limiting marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Legal experts said Mr. Paterson's decision would make New York the only state that did not itself allow gay marriage but fully recognized same-sex unions entered into elsewhere. The directive is the strongest signal yet that Mr. Paterson, who developed strong ties to the gay community as a legislator, plans to push aggressively to legalize same-sex unions as governor. His predecessor, Eliot Spitzer, introduced a bill last year that would have legalized gay marriage, but even as he submitted it, doubted that it would pass. The Democratic-dominated Assembly passed the measure, but the Republican-led Senate has refused to call a vote on it. Short of an act by the Legislature, the directive ordered by Mr. Paterson is the one of the strongest statements a state can make in favor of gay unions. "Basically we've done everything we can do on marriage legislatively at this point," said Sean Patrick Maloney, a senior adviser to Mr. Paterson. "But there are tools in our tool kit on the executive side, and this is one." ... Gay rights advocates ... applauded Mr. Paterson, saying the broad directive would make it clear that gay couples wed in other states were entitled to all of the benefits of marriage in New York and relieve them of the burden of challenging or suing individual agencies. "He saw no reason to stand in the way of making sure these couples benefit from the rights and protections that come with marriage," said Susan Sommer, senior counsel for Lambda Legal, a group that advocates for gay rights. "It shouldn't be the burden of each lesbian or gay couple to have to advocate before an agency every time a new issue comes up."

Woot! Absent the fact that this directive should be the policy of every single state in the US, I applaud the Governor of New York for taking a bold stance on, what is essentially, common sense. Of course a couple that is legally married in one state should be fully recognized in every other state. Our country is built on the principles of equality and justice and this latest effort on New York's part is merely a reflection of those principles. If you think about it, all the gays have to do is get married in California and then split their time in New York to live out completely fulfilling lives ... at least to start. I'm convinced that the rest of the country will eventually come to realize that discrimination is wrong and that all US citizens should be afforded the same rights to marry. But, in the meantime, California and New York will do just fine in carrying on the traditions that this country is supposed to stand for. [Source]