New York Approves Gay Marriages, Will Others Follow Sui ...

In a move that should have happened years ago, gay marriage was officially legalized in the the state of New York, who becomes the sixth state to legalize it.  Late, but as some say, it’s better late than never.  What makes New York stand out, is that it is the largest state to date to legalize gay marriage.  It’s a victory because New York, despite being a Democrat stronghold for years, has also had a conservative outlook on many issues, so this victory provides a brighter outlook for gay rights.  If New York can do it, other more liberal states can definitely do it.

The vote caps a mixed year for gay marriage in state legislatures. New York was the only state to approve same-sex marriages. Three states — Delaware, Hawaii and Illinois — voted to allow gay couples to enter into civil unions, which afford many of the same benefits as marriage. Although gay groups consider civil unions a positive step, they say it falls short of the true legal and symbolic equality that the term “marriage” carries with it.

In Minnesota, lawmakers decided to place a measure on the 2012 ballot asking voters to define marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman. Voters have supported such language in all 31 states that have put that question on the ballot. However, with public opinion shifting, according to several recent polls, and with Minnesota’s liberal tilt, advocates hope it will be their first opportunity to defeat such a ballot initiative.

A similar initiative passed in California in 2008. However, in a major victory for the pro-gay-marriage movement, a federal judge last year overturned that law and called into question the constitutionality of such ballot measures. The issue is widely expected to be settled by the U.S. Supreme Court.

A Washington Post poll in March showed that a slim majority of Americans support gay marriage, a dramatic rise from just five years ago.

In New York, a series of actors, singers, professional athletes and politicians, including New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I) and former president Bill Clinton had urged the legislature to pass the bill.... And it was a Democrat, Sen. Ruben Diaz Jr., who spoke most passionately against same-sex marriage. Diaz noted that the same bill failed two years ago when both chambers were controlled by Democrats…. New York and Maryland highlight recent fissures that have emerged in the debate over gay marriage. As more and more Republicans warm up to the idea, it has been Democrats — most visibly, those who hail from black and Latino Christian communities — who have stood in the way.

In a twist of fate, it was a member of the traditional proponents of gay rights, a Democrat, who spoke loudly against the gay marriage will, and it was Republicans switching aisles to provide enough votes to make this happen.  Ironically, in spite of this victory, President Obama has remained quiet, despite his party’s strong support for gay rights.

“Speaking to the Democratic Party’s LGBT Leadership Council at a fund-raiser in New York, Mr. Obama ran through the many efforts he has made on behalf of gay rights, including his decision to end the government’s legal support of the Defense of Marriage Act, which forbids federal recognition of same-sex marriage. The act should be repealed, he said, since marriage is defined by the states.

Mr. Obama’s legal formula suggests he is fine with the six states that now permit same-sex marriage, and fine with the more than three dozen other states that ban it. By refusing to say whether he supports it (as he did in 1996) or opposes it (as he did in 2008), he remained in a straddle that will soon strain public patience. For now, all Mr. Obama promised was a gauzy new “chapter” in the story if he is re-elected, and his views remain officially “evolving.”

Fundamental equality, however, is hardly the equivalent of a liquor law that can vary on opposite sides of a state line. Why is Mr. Obama so reluctant to say the words that could lend strength to a national effort now backed by a majority of Americans?

In the 2008 campaign, when Mr. Obama said he supported civil unions and believed marriage should be between men and women, he may have wanted to appeal to slightly more conservative voters who were wary of him.

After he took office, it became evident that Republicans intended to portray him as a radical, out-of-touch leftist no matter what he did. Supporting same-sex marriage at this point is hardly going to change that drumbeat, and any voter for whom that is a make-or-break issue will probably not be an Obama supporter anyway.

Firm support for gay marriage is, on the other hand, likely to help him among his cheerless base. Mr. Obama opposes the Defense of Marriage Act and is presiding over the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” He signed the United Nations declaration on gay rights, and allowed the Census to count same-sex relationships. But he has been absent from the biggest and most difficult drive of all.

The passage of the gay marriage bill was met with much rejoicing and celebrating, both in New York, and nationwide.  Especially happy was actor Neil Patrick Harris, who has been awaiting this day for over five years:

Now that gay marriage is legal in New York, actor Neil Patrick Harris says he’s ready to tie the knot with his longtime partner, Michigan native and University of Michigan grad David Burtka.

“David and I did propose to each other, but over five years ago!” Harris, 38, tweeted over the weekend, according to people com. “We’ve been wearing engagement rings for ages, waiting for an available date.”

Harris, star of CBS’s “How I Met Your Mother,” was one of the many New Yorkers celebrating Friday when news arrived that a bill legalizing same-sex marriage had won approval of state lawmakers.

“It PASSED!” he tweeted Friday night. “Marriage equality in NY!! Yes!! Progress!!”

Of course, it’s not just the gay community that is excited by the news of legalized marriage.  Divorce lawyers may be looking at the law as an opportunity, as gay marriages will likely face the same challenges heterosexual marriages do, and some will likely end in divorce.

It is worth pointing out that the two most prominent politicians in the successful campaign to legalize same-sex marriage in New York want nothing to do with marriage. For themselves, anyway.

Both of them, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, have generally treated matrimony as if it were the worst idea since the Edsel….The mayor and the governor…were each married once. Each was divorced…Still, the governor and the mayor stand as object lessons to gay men and lesbians contemplating marriage. Couples can, and do, break up. Just as city and town clerks anticipate a surge in applications for same-sex wedding licenses once the new law goes into effect in late July, and just as businesses like florists and caterers expect to benefit, divorce lawyers assume that, in time, they will have more clients.

“There’s a demographic pool that never existed before,” said Raoul Felder, the prominent divorce lawyer. Mr. Felder said this not with hands-rubbed-together glee but, rather, as statement of reality. A colleague in his Manhattan law firm, Bettina D. Hindin, had her own sober assessment. “I may be a divorce lawyer,” Ms. Hindin said, “but I don’t hope for the demise of marriages.” All the same, she added, “in coming weeks we’re going to be reading and parsing through everything” to understand the new law’s implications for divorce.

Several matrimonial lawyers said in interviews that broadly speaking, the rules should be the same for same-sex and opposite-sex couples. But there could be complications.

Let’s suppose, Ms. Hindin said, that one woman in a lesbian marriage has a baby, through whatever means. If the other woman does not legally adopt the child, there may be questions about her rights and obligations to that child should the marriage end.

Where to get divorced is another issue, one that has already arisen in other states where marriage equality exists. If a gay couple marry in New York, then move to a state that forbids such unions, they may find they are unable to divorce in that state, the reasoning there being: How can we dissolve a marriage that we never recognized in the first place?….Then again, the fact that plenty of gay couples have already been together for years suggests to some lawyers that divorce may not be a dominant issue.

“A lot of divorces occur because people didn’t know each other that well,” said one divorce lawyer, who had reasons to have his request for anonymity honored. “A lot of gay couples have been together for a lot longer than straight couples before they get married. They’re less likely to get divorced, because they know each other better.”

And yet, others are not so enthusiastic about the new measure.  As expected, the Church is taking a stand against gay marriage, with Timothy Dolan, the Archibishop of New York, stating that while he loves the gay community, he is against the institution of gay marriage.

While expressing sadness and disappointment that New York will indeed become the 6th and largest state to legalize same-sex marriage, Archbishop Dolan did apologize to the gay community, saying his opposition was based on a pro-marriage stance, not an anti-gay bias.

“I say to the gay community, I love you very much,” Archbishop Dolan proclaimed. “If anything I ever said or did would have you believe I have anything less than love and respect for you, I apologize.”

Some demonstrators outside the Cathedral were receptive to the Archbishop’s remarks. “We’re always open for dialogue and we’d like to see them support us, because we are in the Catholic Church, we are members of the Catholic faith,” said Lewis Tanner of a group called Dignity USA.
Others were not so diplomatic with the decision, claiming that the passage of the New York law legalizing gay marriage was a “cold slap” in the face of god.

The passage of a bill allowing gays and lesbians to marry by the state Senate on Friday, in fact, should leave Christians grieving – grieving that “our God has been offended, … that a lifestyle has had a stamp of approval put on it by our government in Albany that really is an extremely dangerous lifestyle,” said Pastor Art Kohl of Faith Bible Baptist Church….Speaking from the pulpit of his independent Baptist church, Kohl lamented, “What has happened in Albany this week … was not only an affront to me but it was also an affront to a holy God.”

“It was a cold, hard slap [in] God’s face by the assembly men and women in Albany who voted for it and the senators,” he stated plainly. “They spit in the very face of a holy God who alone can define what marriage is.”  Kohl prefaced his sermon with a note that Christians should not hate anyone…With the approval of gay marriage in his state, the Baptist pastor is even more convinced that the end of the world is drawing near.

“The events of Friday night grieved my heart but strengthened my faith in biblical prophecy because our Lord said it would be like this just before he comes,” he preached….“What happened in New York this week could just be anecdotal. I’m not trying to promote … that we interpret the Bible from a New Yorker’s perspective but certainly New York has become like a Sodom and Gomorrah ….What Kohl isn’t confused about, however, is what will happen as a result of the approval of gay marriage. Despite the provision of religious protections, Kohl is convinced that the consequences “are going to be horrific.”

“Already, there have been great warnings about discrimination lawsuits in New York state,” he lamented. “Any conservative or Christian business man or woman who should object on the grounds of their religion to provide services is setting themselves up for discrimination lawsuits.”

 Michele Bachmann, a Republican presidential candidate, was quick to make her own comments, stating that if she were president,  she would seek a constitutional amendment to define marriage as an union between a man and woman.  She further stated that it should not be in the courts to decide what is or isn’t marriage.  She acknowledged that getting an amendment to pass would be difficult, but one has to wonder why she would put so much energy to pass a bill preventing the right of marriage when the nation has bigger issues, such as the economy and large number of jobless in the country.

Despite the positions of those against gay marriage, it would seem more and more Americans are accepting of the idea of gay marriage.  And many supportive of gay marriage rights are optimistic that the victory in New York, once thought unlikely to pass such a measure, is a sign that mainstream America is ready and accepting of the idea of gay marriages.  New York’ may very well be the beacon that lights the way for other states to allow gay marriage, and other states may follow suit.  It is without doubt that New York’s passage of the Marriage Equality Act may have national implications.   It’s been long overdue, but better late than never.