Saturday, June 25, 2011

I Love New York...

I was out of town at the end of last week so I couldn't post after New York lawmakers finally voted to legalize same-sex marriage on Friday evening, following several extremely contentious weeks. Governor Andrew Cuomo, who had been urging lawmakers to take this step even before he was sworn in earlier this year, quickly signed the bill into law.

New York is now the largest state to allow equality, and is one of five states (Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont) and the District of Columbia to legalize same-sex marriage.

For some lawmakers, there was no question of how to vote, whether for or against. Some felt every citizen was entitled to the same rights regardless of whom they loved; some objected on religious grounds and/or felt that legalizing same-sex marriage would lead to the destruction of the "traditional" family. But in order for the measure not to meet the same defeat it did when then-Governor Paterson brought it before the legislature, some bipartisan cooperation was needed, because one Democratic senator, Rubén Díaz Sr. of the Bronx, is violently opposed to legalizing same-sex marriage.

"God, not Albany, has settled the definition of marriage, a long time ago," Díaz said Friday night.

Senator Mark J. Grisanti, a Republican from Buffalo who had sought office promising to oppose same-sex marriage, was moved to vote in favor of it. "I apologize for those who feel offended," Grisanti said. "I cannot deny a person, a human being, a taxpayer, a worker, the people of my district and across this state, the State of New York, and those people who make this the great state that it is the same rights that I have with my wife."

And Senator Stephen Saland, a Republican from Poughkeepsie, said, "Struggling with my traditionalist view of marriage and my deep-rooted values to treat all people with respect and as equals, I believe after much deliberation, I am doing the right thing in voting to support marriage equality."

In all, four Republicans voted to legalize same-sex marriage, and the bill passed 33-29. Ironically, I was sitting in a parking lot at a Dairy Queen in Roanoke, VA, when the vote happened, surrounded by more than a few cars with conservative-leaning bumper stickers. But I followed the progress on Twitter and Facebook. (What would we do without social media?)

New York is generally viewed as a liberal state, so I don't know if this decision will truly convince other state legislatures to take similar actions, especially with a presidential election looming next year. But it appears that now, more than ever, a majority of Americans believe that all should be entitled to the same rights where marriage is concerned.

Hopefully, if the decision to legalize same-sex marriage comes to other states, proponents will be more passionate and less complacent in seeing the legislation pass. The time has come to embrace equality, not run from it or claim to stand on moral ground.

In the end, society will celebrate those who support equality and treat with disdain those who do not, much as those opponents of civil rights were treated in the last few decades of the 20th century.

It is not wrong to love who you love and want to spend your life with that person. If our nation was built on the pursuit of happiness, what brings more happiness?

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