Marriage Equality And Its Effects Everlasting
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
I do not remember the last time I was proud of the New York State legislature.
The historic passage of the Marriage Equality bill is a major achievement in the civil rights struggle we’ve known for most of our lives.
It is a triumphant and amazingly quick achievement for the LGBT movement, which has effectively demonstrated that organization, dedication and commitment can bring social change.
I am thrilled for the LGBT community and the tens of thousands of couples and families this new legislation affects.
I am basically thrilled that another blow for equality has been struck – right here in New York.
I salute the moribund, dysfunctional New York State Legislature that for years has been the target of my just derision.
As history records this chapter in the evolution of the civil rights movement in the United States, and plans are being made for wedding celebrations starting at the end of July, several thoughts come to mind.
As we herald in a new era we wonder:
1) As a result of gay marriages, will there be other laws that require changing?
2) Will New York State’s economy get a significant boost as a result of the increase in wedding celebrations and the gift-giving that accompanies them?
3) How long will it take for the right wing to accept marriage equality?
4) Will the leadership he demonstrated ultimately catapult Andrew Cuomo into the national spotlight and the White House?
No, I don’t have the answers; just a couple of thoughts.
First, on the light and more serious side, I guess the introduction of Gay Marriage in New York, also means the beginning of Gay Divorce. Welcome to reality brothers and sisters of the LGBT community. Are New York’s divorce laws, community property laws, child custody laws and every other ancillary law gender neutral when it comes to married couples? Will health professionals, schools, tax folk require law changes, procedural adjustments, form rewrites and more in order to deal with married couples of the same sex?
Will the required changes perhaps bring jobs or business to legal professions or printers? Will the lawyers – they always seem to gain – benefit from the likely increase in divorces?
We certainly anticipate an immediate significant increase in the restaurant and catering business as romantic couples pop the question and then celebrate with engagement parties, family gatherings and elaborate weddings.
Gift-giving to the newly engaged or married couples could spark another mini economic boom, especially if the LGBT organized a “celebrate with us and buy local campaign.” Even if that’s too much to expect, we all should remain conscious of keeping our dollars as close to home as possible. A recovery on Main Street benefits us all.
It seems to me that as a side benefit to the historical Marriage Equality achievement, we can expect to see communities all across New York benefit economically from the added business and spending that new marriages bring.
As far as the right wing – the conservative movement in New York that tried to block Marriage Equality legislation by threatening to withhold the “C” line in the next election from any Republican who voted in favor of it – their acceptance is likely to evolve.
As people get used to a new social condition, they become more accepting. If the evolution doesn’t occur quickly enough – and it never does – there are demonstrations, court decisions, and a watchful press. This nation has learned how to deal effectively with illegal discrimination, and now that gay marriage will be legal, we expect to see the news and courts filled with incidents and accusations of discrimination. Yes, there will be that photographer who refuses to shoot the gay wedding, the restaurant which won’t host the lesbian engagement party, or the gift shop refusing to have same-sex bridal registry. We’re not sure why they won’t welcome the additional business but expect it.
Yes, there will even be some demonstrations by zealots who refuse to accept other people’s rights and freedoms. Sadly, extremists all too often rely on religion to try to impede social progress.
Soon the resistance will pass – except for the hard-core crazies – and no one will be surprised by the gay married couple on the block. Yes, there will be communities with a greater percentage of gay families but soon it will be acceptable in almost every community – it is already in many. While we are insulated from upstate, we imagine there is more resistance there. In downstate New York, the gay movement has made significant inroads towards equality long before Friday’s passage of the legislation. The movement’s economic power and organization has paved the way for this moment.
Finally, the new law would never have been passed without the effective leadership of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. He singlehandedly turned last year’s bad defeat into this year’s triumphant victory. And in the final week of the legislative session he achieved historic cooperation and compromise resulting in a series of amazing triumphs for his agenda and New York. On top of his budget and ethics achievements, Cuomo moves to the top of every liberal list as a future leader of the Blues.
His long talked-about quest for the White House finally has legs. Andrew Cuomo has shown his A-game and it is of national quality and as impressive as we’ve ever seen.
If he can keep it going, we expect to see Cuomo for President in 2016.
Even though we’ve come a long way thanks to his leadership, he would be more electable married to a Food Network star than a gay partner.
Vote Brings Civil Rights, Equality To All Of Us
By Jimmy Van Bramer
I will never forget where I was when marriage equality became a reality in New York State.
I was standing on the steps of the Tweed Courthouse with my City Council colleagues as the Mayor and Speaker Quinn were announcing an agreement on the City’s budget when the Speaker took the microphone and shared the news that the state Legislature had just approved marriage equality; my eyes filled with tears of joy.
As I celebrated that night and throughout Pride weekend, I thought about how far we have come as a society, even in my lifetime.
I was born in August 1969, just two months after the historic Stonewall Riots that launched the modern LGBT civil rights movement.
When I came out to my family 20 years later, I didn’t think that marriage equality would happen in my lifetime. But step by step, propelled by the tremendous courage of advocates and people who came out to their families, the tide of history began to turn.
By allowing all New Yorkers to marry the person they love, our state has made a clear and forceful declaration that there must be no second-class New Yorkers.
The struggle to reach this milestone has been long, and change is always difficult. But as evidenced by Friday’s vote, the march toward greater freedom and fairness, toward true equality under the law, cannot be stopped until all of us are truly free.
Many LGBT youth struggle to come out, sometimes encountering resentment, betrayal and even violence from those that they love and their community at large. In the last year, we have witnessed tragic events of bullying against gay teens. As I recorded my “It Gets Better” video last year, I recalled my own struggle at a young age to come out and the happiness I have since found.
Twelve years ago, I was able to find love in my partner, Dan. However, as strong as our bond is, we were not entitled to the same rights and acknowledgement as our heterosexual friends. Dan and I experience the same ups and downs as any other couple: We balance our checkbook, shop for groceries, go to Mets games, help out in the community and plan for the future. However, our relationship was not recognized by the state; we were, in the eyes of the law, no more than strangers.
In addition to granting our relationship the proper legal status, Friday’s vote was important for another kind of history, too – the kind recorded not in history books, but in family photographs and genealogies.
For too long, gay and lesbian couples like us were forced to live in the shadows. No matter how long we lived together, no matter how much we loved each other, no matter how committed we were to one another, gay and lesbian relationships rested on a legal house of cards under New York law.
And now, at last, our state government has caught up with the truth that our families, colleagues and neighbors have long known: LGBT citizens deserve the same rights, recognition and respect as every other New Yorker.
With Friday’s vote, New York has reclaimed its proper role as a beacon for civil rights and equality – a proud example that should inspire our federal government and other states around the country to follow suit.
Jimmy Van Bramer is a member of the City Council representing Long Island City, Sunnyside and Woodside.