Tonight, I’m proud to be a New Yorker

Tonight, the New York State Senate passed the Marriage Equality Act by a 33-29 margin.

Republican Senators Stephen Saland, Mark Grisanti, Roy McDonald and Jim Alesi crossed party lines to vote “yes,” more than offsetting Democratic Senator Ruben Diaz’s “no” vote. I’m thrilled that my state is now #6 to allow same-sex marriages. I suppose at this point, I should put into writing what I’ve been saying for years on this topic.

As a way of moving into this, I’ll note that the act was passed after being amended to allow for religious exemptions, basically stating that civil actions could not be brought against clergy who refused to perform religious services for same-sex marriages. And that’s as it should be. The separation of church and state says that the state can’t tell religions what they can and can’t do.

The big problem in all of this is that the law and religion use the same term. Therefore, when the law defines “marriage,” it takes on all of the overtones of the religious definition(s) of “marriage.” If the law had used a different term all along, we might not have had such a tug-of-war for all of these years. While there would still have been those opposed, the use of the emotionally-charged and religiously-linked word “marriage” pushed many hot buttons. If, years ago, government had made a decision to have all legal references instead use the term “civil partnerships” or “domestic partnerships,” there would have been much less rancor. “Domestic partnership” would be a legal term and “marriage” would be a religious term. Everyone would have a domestic partnership whether or not their religion would marry them. However, because the law used the word “marriage” all along, to change the legal definition to use “domestic partnership” for all would have raised much resistance from those who didn’t want to lose the use of “marriage” as a legal term. It was too late.

Now, after enough time has passed that the majority of Americans—and the majority of New Yorkers—understand that homosexuality is not a choice and that all people deserve the same rights, we have taken that step in my state to acknowledge the fact and to allow some of the disenfranchised to enjoy the same comforts and protections of the institution of marriage that the rest of us already have.

To those who claim that the purpose of marriage is to procreate, I say that I know a number of heterosexual couples who have no intention of reproducing. Does that mean that they should not be allowed to marry? Should all marriages of couples who find that they are unable to have children be automatically annulled as a rule? I don’t think so. Does it mean that two parents of the same sex can’t be good parents, either of children that they previously had with a member of the opposite sex or of children that they adopt? I know several people who would serve as great examples to the contrary.

To those who claim that allowing same-sex couples to marry makes a mockery of the institution of marriage, what do you say about those who marry and divorce repeatedly? Those celebrities whose marriages are measured in days? And how do you justify saying that a homosexual couple that has been together for 20 years makes more of a mockery of marriage than those with “disposable marriages”?

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while (and I know that I have been lax in updating lately), you know that my Uncle Fred was an activist for gay rights for decades. I feel sad that he passed away less than a year before the state of his birth legalized same-sex marriage. Fred had survived more than one long-term partner, despite being HIV positive for decades. He lost one to cancer. One died of a severe asthma attack. But I’m sure that all of them are having a party somewhere celebrating this historic legislation.

New York is the sixth state (plus the District of Columbia) to legalize marriage. Six down, forty-four to go. Let’s see who’s next. In the meantime, New York did me proud today.

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