Please note-

*Please note- Your browser preferences must be set to 'allow 3rd party cookies' in order to comment in our diaries.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Rush is on for gay marriage in New York


As the news flashed around the globe that New York state had legalized gay marriage, New York fashion designer Malcolm Harris didn't waste any time. He dashed off a Twitter message to his boyfriend of nine years: "'Will you marry me?"
A city away, in Boston, Bernadette Smith decided to immediately relocate her business planning gay weddings to New York City.
In Brooklyn, pastors Ann Kansfield and Jennifer Aull received their first two requests to wed gay couples at their church in the borough's Greenpoint section. They scheduled one for Labor Day weekend.
Even as supporters of gay marriage celebrated victory in New York on Saturday, preparations were being made to make gay weddings a reality in the state.
Couples who had talked about going out-of-state to wed changed their plans. Reception venues got their first calls. Churches that accept gay unions said they were looking forward to hosting ceremonies.
After a lifetime of waiting, there was a sense of urgency.
Story: N.Y. becomes sixth and largest state to legalize gay marriage The law signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo late Friday night doesn't take effect for 30 days, but Harris — who got a "yes" to his Twitter proposal — said he and fiancé K. Tyson Perez planned to get a marriage license right away, wed on paper, and then have a blowout reception in six months.
"I can't wait to spend the rest of my life with him," Harris said.
"This is going to be as traditional as it gets. We're going to do it at the Four Seasons, a place that is like gay church to me," he added about the atmospheric restaurant where he planned to hold the event.
The law passed amid opposition from the largest and most influential religious groups in the state, but in New York City, at least, there were still an ample number of churches that have already said they would happily officiate a gay marriage ceremony.
The Rev. Stephen H. Phelps, senior minister at the Riverside Church, in Manhattan, said he was looking forward to replacing the commitment ceremonies that have been done there for years with something state-sanctioned.
"I think it is an occasion for members of our society who have been burned by narrow-minded religion to see that it doesn't have to be that way," he said.
Story: 'Have to do this': Cuomo charts course for gay marriage in NY At a gay pride celebration in Harlem's Marcus Garvey Park, the Rev. Joseph Tolton of the Rehoboth Temple Christ Conscious Church, a Pentecostal congregation that is predominantly gay, said he couldn't wait to start.
"I'm going to be very busy on Saturdays," he said.
Congregants Yvonne Lindesay, 55, and her partner Elaine Livingston, 62, said they're planning to get married after living together for two years, after watching the results of New York's critical Senate vote on television Friday night.
"I cried. Our phone was ringing off the hook — from straight people too," Lindesay said.
Smith, who founded a gay wedding planning business in Massachusetts after it legalized gay marriage, said she had been hoping to relocate to New York for some time, and had already begun laying the groundwork to establish a New York officer for her company, 14 Stories, in anticipation of the vote."
The move is partly a matter of survival, she said. Over seven years, her client list has been dominated by people traveling to Massachusetts from elsewhere to wed — a type of tourism that may now shift to the Big Apple.
"I was supposed to have a gay wedding today with a gay couple from New York," she said. "They were a no-show. Of course, for a good reason."
She said New York has quite a set of parties to look forward to.
"The weddings are incredible," she said. "I think maybe because there is a lot of pent up anticipation ... It's really about appreciating and savoring the legality of it. Because some couples have literally been waiting for years and years. To be around that energy, where they are not taking a thing for granted ... there's usually not a dry eye in the room."
At the Greenpoint Reformed Church, Aull said she and co-pastor Kansfield, who got married themselves in Massachusetts years ago, have presided over same-sex unions before. But she expects there will be something different, more joyous, about being able to do it legally at home.
"There is always a little bit of a bittersweet aspect when you are doing a marriage, and there is a sense that it is not recognized by anyone," she said.
Associated Press reporter Julie Walker contributed to this report.

Gay Marriage: A Bittersweet Victory?

By Howard Chua-Eoan -

I woke up this morning to discover that, despite my best efforts, I was still only married to my job.
I had spent part of the night in Greenwich Village with the crowds outside the Stonewall Inn celebrating the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York state. I proposed to several passersby but every single one laughed. The thumping of "Y.M.C.A." on an adjacent boombox killed any possibility of romance. (Why is that song always played at weddings?)
I had wandered down from a party about 10 blocks north, in Chelsea, one of New York City's gay enclaves. The gathering at that apartment was slightly surreal. It appeared to be familiar: handsome young men flirting with each other over sweets and alcohol. But now they had a complex new dimension to navigate through — albeit the kind of calculus that heterosexuals can do in their sleep. Or when they sleep with each other. Or when they wake up and discover who they have slept with. It's the possibility of marriage, lurking subtly somewhere in one's head. Imagine all the psycho-sexual-financial-commercial-legal dramas that will emerge as that little formula weaves itself into the lives of gay New Yorkers. Soon, we can have the kind of domestic life straight people have. One day, we may no longer even be gay. Just the people next door. No more parades.
Of course, that's not going to happen soon. No matter that New York is the largest state of the Union to hold that the union of a man and a man or a woman and a woman is equal to that of a man and a woman. California, the largest state in the Union, had that distinction for a few months before electoral and judicial jiu jitsu tied marriage up in knots there. There are 44 more states to go and a rowdy presidential campaign season that is bound to roil a whole range of political bases. And who knows if the legalization of gay marriage in New York, because it is New York, will actually work against marriage equality across the country. Could an exodus of gay people from the rest of the U.S. to the Empire State sap the will (and pocketbooks) of campaigns to legalize marriage in, say, Missouri or Minnesota or Kansas? Just saying.
But in one very important way, marriage will not quite be marriage even in New York, even 30 days from now when the law goes into effect. That is because the psycho-sexual-financial-commercial-legal dramas that entangle the domestic lives of straight people often have another component — religion. And religious institutions have an exemption in the new law from accommodating gay people. It was key to the passage of the legislation.
Marriage without a church or temple wedding isn't going to be the real thing. Why can some people have all the bells and whistles in the church of their choice but not me? Of course, there have been and will be congregations and churches that allow gay men and lesbians to be married in their midst and to bless those unions, recognizing that God loves them just as much as Governor Andrew Cuomo does. But some rich and influential religious institutions are not only free to continue to reject gay men and women as equal beneficiaries of all aspects of faith but will now rally their congregants to reject politicians who are willing to abide with this extension of secular civil rights — no matter how much acceptance there is of same-sex marriage elsewhere, no matter how many wedding announcements appear in the New York Times.
I write this as a deeply religious Christian who is pained that the church that otherwise provides me with so much spiritual comfort and joy will never allow me to marry within its walls. Some clerics may be "liberal" enough to turn a blind eye to gay relationships so long as they do not have to recognize them, much less grant them any kind of imprimatur. And, as of now, even in New York, religious institutions cannot be compelled to perform such a simple act of charity.
The state cannot force a church to change its beliefs. Even gay people realize that is wrong. And so, just to remind folks that we're here we will have to continue to march in our parades and to sing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Nonetheless, waking up this morning, I was very happy not to be in Kansas anymore.

Some celebrity quotes on NY's new gay marriage law

Some quotes from celebrities reacting to state lawmakers passing and Gov. Andrew Cuomo signing legislation making gay marriage legal in New York:
"I can't stop crying. We did it kids." — Lady Gaga, on Twitter.
"happy gays r here again !!!!!" — Rosie O'Donnell, on Twitter.
"I have never been prouder to be a lifelong New Yorker than I am today with the passage of marriage equality." — Cyndi Lauper, in a statement.
"Time to celebrate!!! Marriage Equality for NYers! Its about... love!" — Ricky Martin, on Twitter.
"It PASSED! Marriage equality in NY!! Yes!! Progress!! Thank you everyone who worked so hard on this!! A historic night!" — Neil Patrick Harris, on Twitter.
"I'm thrilled about the news from NY. Marriage equality! Every day we get a little closer. What an amazing feeling." — Ellen DeGeneres, on Twitter.
"tonight we're all New Yorkers! Straight & gay alike, let's all celebrate marriage (hash)equality. The right side of history!" — Kathy Griffin, on Twitter.
"Happy that New York passed marriage equality tonight. A victory for human rights. Progress." — John Legend, on Twitter.
"congratulations!!!!!!!!! About time!" — Pink, on Twitter.
"Alec! Now we can get married!" — Steve Martin to Alec Baldwin, on Twitter.
"Ok. But if you play that ... banjo after eleven o'clock..." — Baldwin's response.
"I sing it every night, but now it has better meaning: `New York- concrete jungle where dreams are made of, there's nothing you can't do.' :) As if I didn't already have enough to celebrate and enjoy today. A big hug for New York from my lone hotel room in London." — Darren Criss, on Twitter.
"Way to go, New York. One people. One planet. One love." — Alyssa Milano, on Twitter.
"Proud to be FROM NY! — Lindsay Lohan, on Twitter.
"Yay for Gay Marriage! NY, it's about time...jersey we're next! How you doin?" — Wendy Williams, on Twitter.

Behind N.Y. Gay Marriage, an Unlikely Mix of Forces

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo at the bill-signing on Friday with Sen. Thomas K. Duane, second from right, and other lawmakers.
In the 35th-floor conference room of a Manhattan high-rise, two of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s most trusted advisers held a secret meeting a few weeks ago with a group of super-rich Republican donors.
Over tuna and turkey sandwiches, the advisers explained that New York’s Democratic governor was determined to legalize same-sex marriage and would deliver every possible Senate vote from his own party.
Would the donors win over the deciding Senate Republicans? It sounded improbable: top Republican moneymen helping a Democratic rival with one of his biggest legislative goals.
But the donors in the room — the billionaire Paul Singer, whose son is gay, joined by the hedge fund managers Cliff Asness and Daniel Loeb — had the influence and the money to insulate nervous senators from conservative backlash if they supported the marriage measure. And they were inclined to see the issue as one of personal freedom, consistent with their more libertarian views.
Within days, the wealthy Republicans sent back word: They were on board. Each of them cut six-figure checks to the lobbying campaign that eventually totaled more than $1 million.
Steve Cohen, the No. 2 in Mr. Cuomo’s office and a participant in the meeting, began to see a path to victory, telling a colleague, “This might actually happen.”
The story of how same-sex marriage became legal in New York is about shifting public sentiment and individual lawmakers moved by emotional appeals from gay couples who wish to be wed.
But, behind the scenes, it was really about a Republican Party reckoning with a profoundly changing power dynamic, where Wall Street donors and gay-rights advocates demonstrated more might and muscle than a Roman Catholic hierarchy and an ineffective opposition.
And it was about a Democratic governor, himself a Catholic, who used the force of his personality and relentlessly strategic mind to persuade conflicted lawmakers to take a historic leap.
“I can help you,” Mr. Cuomo assured them in dozens of telephone calls and meetings, at times pledging to deploy his record-high popularity across the state to protect them in their districts. “I am more of an asset than the vote will be a liability.”
Over the last several weeks, dozens of lawmakers, strategists and advocates described the closed-door meetings and tactical decisions that led to approval of same-sex marriage in New York, about two years after it was rejected by the Legislature. This account is based on those interviews, most of which were granted on the condition of anonymity to describe conversations that were intended to be confidential.
‘I Have to Do This’
Mr. Cuomo was diplomatic but candid with gay-rights advocates in early March when he summoned them to the Capitol’s Red Room, a ceremonial chamber with stained-glass windows and wood-paneled walls.
The advocates had contributed to the defeat of same-sex marriage in 2009, he told them, with their rampant infighting and disorganization. He had seen it firsthand, as attorney general, when organizers had given him wildly divergent advice about which senators to lobby and when, sometimes in bewildering back-to-back telephone calls. “You can either focus on the goal, or we can spend a lot of time competing and destroying ourselves,” the governor said.
This time around, the lobbying had to be done the Cuomo way: with meticulous, top-down coordination. “I will be personally involved,” he said.
The gay-rights advocates agreed, or at least acquiesced. Five groups pushing for same-sex marriage merged into a single coalition, hired a prominent consultant with ties to Mr. Cuomo’s office, Jennifer Cunningham, and gave themselves a new name: New Yorkers United for Marriage.
Those who veered from the script faced swift reprimand. When Assemblyman Daniel J. O’Donnell, an openly gay Democrat from Manhattan, introduced a same-sex marriage bill in May without first alerting the governor’s office, he was upbraided by Mr. Cohen. “What do you think you’re doing?” the governor’s aide barked over the phone.
Mr. Cuomo’s hands-on management was a turning point not just for the marriage movement, but also for his long and fraught relationship with the gay community. Advocates groused that he had waited until 2006 to endorse same-sex marriage, years after many leading New York political leaders did so. And many of them still remembered his work on his father’s unsuccessful 1977 bid for mayor of New York, which had featured homophobic posters aimed at Edward I. Koch.
Over time, however, championing same-sex marriage had become personal for Mr. Cuomo. He campaigned on the issue in the race for governor last year, and after his election, he was staggered by the number of gay couples who sought him out at restaurants and on the street, prodding him, sometimes tearfully, to deliver on his word.
The pressure did not let up at home. Mr. Cuomo’s girlfriend, Sandra Lee, has a gay brother, and she frequently reminded the governor how much she wanted the law to change.
Something else weighed on him, too: the long shadow of his father, Mario, who rose to national prominence as the conscience of the Democratic Party, passionately defending the poor and assailing the death penalty. During his first few months in office, the younger Mr. Cuomo had achieved what seemed like modern-day miracles by the standards of Albany — an austere on-time budget and a deal to cap property taxes. But, as Mr. Cuomo explained by phone to his father a few weeks ago, he did not want those accomplishments to define his first year in office.
“They are operational,” he told his father. Passing same-sex marriage, by contrast, “is at the heart of leadership and progressive government.”
“I have to do this.”
A Democratic Surprise
Nobody ever expected Carl Kruger to vote yes.
A Democrat from Brooklyn, known for his gruff style and shifting alliances, Senator Kruger voted against same-sex marriage two years ago, was seen as a pariah in his party and was accused in March of taking $1 million in bribes in return for political favors.
Some gay activists, assuming he was a lost cause, had taken to picketing outside of his house and screaming that he was gay — an approach that seemed only to harden his opposition to their agenda. (Mr. Kruger has said he is not gay.) But unbeknown to all but a few people, Mr. Kruger desperately wanted to change his vote. The issue, it turned out, was tearing apart his household.
The gay nephew of the woman he lives with, Dorothy Turano, was so furious at Mr. Kruger for opposing same-sex marriage two years ago that he had cut off contact with both of them, devastating Ms. Turano. “I don’t need this,” Mr. Kruger told Senator John L. Sampson of Brooklyn, the Democratic majority leader. “It has gotten personal now.”
Mr. Sampson, a longtime supporter of same-sex marriage, advised Mr. Kruger to focus on the nephew, not the political repercussions. “When everything else is gone,” Mr. Sampson told him, “all you have left is family.”
With Mr. Kruger suddenly a possible yes vote, the same-sex marriage organizers zeroed in on the two remaining Democrats who had previously voted no but appeared open to switching sides: Shirley L. Huntley and Joseph P. Addabbo Jr., both of Queens.
Senator Huntley, a close friend of Mr. Sampson, had privately assured him that she would support the marriage bill, largely out of personal loyalty to him and fellow Democrats.
Persuading Senator Addabbo proved trickier. Same-sex marriage advocates had nicknamed him the Counter, after he told them his vote would hinge entirely on a tally of his constituents who appealed to him for or against the measure. By mid-May, Mr. Addabbo sent word to Mr. Cuomo that the numbers were not there for same-sex marriage.
Until then, members of the same-sex marriage coalition had deliberately refrained from inundating Mr. Addabbo’s office with feedback from supporters of the bill, fearing it might alienate and offend him. But now, the advocates received a message from the governor’s office: Open the floodgates. Brian Ellner, who oversees the marriage push for the Human Rights Campaign, called the head of his field team, who had compiled an exhaustive list of supporters of gay rights in Mr. Addabbo’s district.
“Bury him in paper,” Mr. Ellner said.
Over the next week, the field team collected postcards signed by 2,000 of Mr. Addabbo’s constituents who favor same-sex marriage, twice as many as he had received in the previous few months combined.
When his final tally was completed in early June, he had heard from 6,015 people — 80 percent of whom asked him to vote yes. “In the end, that is my vote,” Mr. Addabbo said.
Republicans Resist
In a private room at the Fort Orange Club, a stately brick manor in Albany where the waitresses still wear French maid uniforms, a pollster laid out the results of his research on gay marriage for Senate Republicans in early June.
There was little political rationale for legalizing it, the numbers suggested: statewide support did not extend deeply into the rural, upstate districts that are crucial to the state’s Republican Party. And with unemployment at 9 percent, the issue was far down the list of priorities for voters.
Many of the Republicans wanted to avoid ever taking a vote on the issue — a simple strategy to carry out. As the majority party in the Senate, they could block any bill from reaching the floor.
But the caucus — a group of 32 senators who had seized control of the Senate in the elections last year but held just a single-seat majority — was far from unified. And, crucially for same-sex marriage advocates, the Republicans’ relatively untested leader showed no interest in forcing them to reach a consensus. “My management style,” the Senate majority leader, Dean G. Skelos of Long Island, had told lawmakers, “is that I let my members lead.”
Mr. Cuomo was determined to exploit the leadership vacuum by peeling off a few senators from moderate districts.
A major target was James S. Alesi, a Republican from suburban Rochester, who seemed tormented by his 2009 vote. Cameras in the Senate chamber captured him holding his head in his hands as the word “no” left his mouth.
The coalition approached him from every angle. The Republican donors invited him to a meeting on Park Avenue, telling him they would eagerly support him if he backed same-sex marriage. “That’s not the kind of lily pad I normally hop on,” Mr. Alesi recalled.
The advocates collected 5,000 signed postcards from his constituents and nudged a major employer in his district, Xerox, to endorse the bill.
And Mr. Cuomo called him, over and over, to address his objections and allay his fears. He told Senator Alesi that as the first Republican to endorse same-sex marriage, he “would show real courage to the gay community.”
On June 13, aides to the governor left urgent messages with same-sex marriage advocates, who had just left a meeting in Mr. Cuomo’s office, to return there immediately, offering no explanation.
As the group assembled around a conference table, the governor opened the door to his private office and peeked in. “I want to introduce the first Republican to support marriage equality,” he announced.
Mr. Alesi walked into the room, which erupted into applause. In emotional remarks, he apologized to them for what he called his “political vote” against same-sex marriage in 2009.
The next day, Bill Smith, a lobbyist for Gill Action, a gay-rights group, turned to the governor and asked, “How many rabbits are you going to pull out of the hat?”
Outgunned Opponents
It was befuddling to gay-rights advocates: The Catholic Church, arguably the only institution with the authority and reach to derail same-sex marriage, seemed to shrink from the fight.
As the marriage bill hurtled toward a vote, the head of the church in New York, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, left town to lead a meeting of bishops in Seattle. He did not travel to Albany or deliver a major speech in the final days of the session. And when he did issue a strongly worded critique of the legislation — he called it “immoral” and an “ominous threat” — it was over the phone to an Albany-area radio show.
Inside the Capitol, where a photograph of Mr. Cuomo shaking hands with Archbishop Dolan hangs in the governor’s private office, the low-key approach did not seem accidental. Mr. Cuomo had taken pains to blunt the church’s opposition.
When he learned that church leaders had objected to the language of the marriage legislation, he invited its lawyers to the Capitol to vent their frustration.
Mr. Cuomo even spoke to Archbishop Dolan about the push for same-sex marriage, emphasizing his respect and affection for the religious leader. An adviser described the governor’s message to Archbishop Dolan this way: “I have to do what I have to do. But your support over all is very important to me.”
By the time a Catholic bishop from Brooklyn traveled to Albany last week to tell undecided senators that passing same-sex marriage “is not in keeping with the will of their people,” it was clear the church had been outmaneuvered by the highly organized same-sex marriage coalition, with its sprawling field team and, especially, its Wall Street donors.
“In many ways,” acknowledged Dennis Poust, of the New York State Catholic Conference, “we were outgunned. That is a lot to overcome.”
With the church largely out of the picture, the governor’s real worry was the simmering tension in the Senate Republican delegation. Its members met, for hours at a time, to debate the political and moral implications of allowing a vote. But each time new arguments arose. Some questioned whether homosexuality was genetic or chosen. Others suggested that the same-sex marriage legislation be scrapped in favor of a statewide referendum.
Mr. Cuomo invited the Republicans to visit him at the governor’s residence, a 40-room Victorian mansion overlooking the Hudson River, just a few blocks from the Capitol.
There, in a speech the public would never hear, he offered his most direct and impassioned case for allowing gays to wed. Gay couples, he said, wanted recognition from the state that they were no different than the lawmakers in the room. “Their love is worth the same as your love,” Mr. Cuomo said, according to someone in the room. “Their partnership is worth the same as your partnership. And they are equal in your eyes to you. That is the driving issue.”
In the late hours of Friday night, 33 members of the State Senate agreed with him.

Photographs: Jubilation Sweeps New York

By David Mixner -

Oh God, how I was I could have joined them in the streets of New York City last night but the old legs ain't what they used to be! However, in every square people were crying, hugging, cheering and celebrating their victory for full marriage equality. I can only imagine what the Gay Pride Parade will be like this Sunday. If Cuomo marches in the parade, he should be given a hero's welcome by this community. Enjoy these pictures from last night from a variety of sources!

for more from David visit Live from Hell's Kitchen.

Gay marriage vote a milestone in New York (Washinghton Post Editorial)

NEW YORK HAS become the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage. Not by court order, but by a vote of 33 to 29 of the state Senate. With leadership from the highest reaches of state government, gay and lesbian couples who longed for the rights and responsibilities, the dignity and respect, that come with marriage will soon be able to do so legally in the Empire State.
New York joins Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia in allowing gays to wed. A court challenge to a 2008 amendment to the California state constitution that banned gay marriage after a state Supreme Court ruling made it legal there is wending its way through the federal appeals court process. If marriage-equality proponents succeed in the Golden State, 23.3 percent of Americans will live in states where gay couples can legally wed.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), who took office in January, was a vocal proponent of legalizing same-sex marriage in New York and made passage a priority. He used the bully pulpit to garner public support around the state. He backed that up by using the power and prestige of the governor’s office behind the scenes. Cuomo was personally involved in securing votes until the very end. And a coalition of organizations also conducted the largest grass-roots effort the state had ever seen.
Nothing was assured. Bills on rent-control laws in New York City and property tax caps for the state needed to be hammered out first. There was opposition from the state Conservative Party, whose chairman threatened to mount a primary challenge to any Republican state senator who voted for the measure. Then there was opposition from the Catholic archbishop of New York, Timothy M. Dolan, who called marriage equality “detrimental for the common good.” Then there were legislators who insisted on (and secured) language to protect religious institutions from having to perform or recognize same-sex marriages. All this led to a legislative session that stretched four days past its June 20 end date.
The history made in New York stands in stark contrast to the disappointment in Maryland last March, when a similar effort failed. After passing the state Senate, a marriage-equality bill was referred back to committee in the House of Delegates after lawmakers who had supported the bill backed down in the face of opposition. Among those reneging on their commitment were Del. Tiffany T. Alston (D-Prince George’s) and Del. Sam Arora (D-Montgomery County), who got elected campaigning on the issue. For his part, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) supported the marriage-equality bill. He even lobbied some legislators behind the scenes. But as we learned in New York, legislation of this significance needs more than rhetorical hand-holding by the governor. It needs determined leadership.

Cuomo: New York a beacon for social justice

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the state's marriage equality bill hours after it passed the Republican-controlled Senate on Friday night, making it the sixth state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage.

Stonewall celebrates passage of marriage equality in New York

Via The New York Daily News -- June 24, 2011 --Thousands gathered in the street and inside Stonewall, the site of the birth of the day rights movement, to celebrate the passage of gay marriage in New York.

Rachel Maddow - NY Passes Marriage Equality.

GAY MARRIAGE PASSES NEW YORK SENATE 33-29 ~ Rachel Maddow reports live on the New York State Senate vote on the right to gay marriage...

A Sense of Euphoria Settles on the West Village

People reacted outside the Stonewall Inn in New York City after the NY Senate passed a bill legalizing gay marriage.
Supporters of the same-sex marriage bill danced in the streets of the West Village after the State Senate approved it on Friday night.
Crowds gathered, screamed and embraced in Sheridan Square near the Stonewall Inn, where the gay-rights movement began more than 40 years ago. Many stood on park benches to get a better view. Gay and lesbian bars in the neighborhood were packed with patrons, and the neighborhood had the feel of jubilant celebration.
“Equality is what this means; this is our right as people,” said John Huls, 52, standing in the Stonewall with his partner, Jay Hoff, 50. “It’ll be our same relationship. We’re the same people as when we met, except now it’s proper in the eyes of the state, and I’ll be able to look at people and say, ‘This is my husband.’ ”
Jen Morera and her partner, Rio Morera, who were married in Boston last year and live in Queens, spent hours glued to the television screen in the Stonewall on Friday night. On their fingers were matching diamond wedding rings.
Both women, who are lifelong New Yorkers, said they now wanted to get married in their hometown. Being denied the right to marry in New York was like being “rejected by my own city,” Jen Morera said, adding that her family could not attend her wedding because of the distance.
“We had to choose between having our family present or getting married,” she said. “It’s an obstacle, having to go to another state to get married.”
When the measure passed, the women screamed and embraced.
As crowds cheered Friday night in the street, politicians offered messages of support.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg called the vote “a historic triumph for equality and freedom.”
The City Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, the city’s highest-ranking openly gay official, said after passage:  “I really can’t really describe what this feels like, but it is one of the best feelings I have ever had in my life.” 
The passage of the bill coincided with the annual Gay Pride weekend, which draws thousands of people from around the country and will culminate on Sunday with a parade down Fifth Avenue in Lower Manhattan. A drag parade on Friday from Tompkins Square Park in the East Village to Stonewall in the West Village also went on as planned — the ranks of the marchers augmented by people who gathered to be part of history.
Scott Stoddart, 50 who lives on the East Side of Manhattan, heard that the issue was coming to a vote and headed right to Stonewall.
“It’s where it all began,” Mr. Stoddart said.
Outside the bar, the crowd swelled to nearly 1,000. Some of those who could not squeeze inside the bar stood outside with Champagne in plastic flutes.
“We’re there, finally, but we’re not all the way there; this is only one step,” said a man dressed in drag who identified himself as Lady Havoc, standing in front of the historic bar. Celebration, he said, however, was still in order.

BREAKING: New York Senate votes to legalize same-sex marriage!

Courage Campaign

We did it: the NY State Senate just voted to legalize same-sex marriage! Gov. Cuomo is ready to sign the bill, which already passed the Assembly, and NY will become the largest state in the union to grant couples the equal rights they deserve.
You helped make this happen! In partnership with the Human Rights Campaign and New Yorkers United for Marriage, Courage members made call after call until we picked up the six votes we needed. Previously undecided Senators like Addabbo, Huntley and others publicly cited the number of calls they got from folks like you as a reason they supported equality. Now, we’ve got to keep this train moving.
Can you chip in right now to help us push for marriage equality in other battleground states like Minnesota and Maryland?
Here’s why this is important, Terrence: we can use the success in New York as a tool to move residents and lawmakers in other states. At Courage, our Testimony project helps compelling stories go viral.
In Minnesota, where voters will face a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in 2012, we can use the story of a Buffalo, NY couple getting married after 52 years together to convince an undecided Duluth, MN voter. When we're pushing Senators to repeal the "Defense of Marriage Act" (DOMA), we can show them the stories of couples who get married from New York, but live in or move to another state, so they lose the rights from that marriage at the border.
Will you chip in so we can bring what worked in New York to other states?
This will help us beyond marriage. We can also change hearts and minds in states like Tennessee, where the governor just signed legislation banning any protections for LGBT people and where the Senate passed the odious "Don't Say Gay" bill. We can show the rest of the country why they should stand on the right side of history. We’ll use your contribution to tell those stories through viral videos and ads in other states so we can speed up the day when all Americans, LGBT or straight, can finally be equal.
We’re ready to move on to the next state. Will you join us?
Thanks for everything you’re doing,
Adam Bink
Native Western New Yorker and Director of Online Programs, Courage Campaign

Support the work we do? Chip in today to fund our nationwide efforts to legalize marriage for same-sex couples:

The Courage Campaign is a multi-issue online organizing network that empowers more than 700,000 grassroots and netroots supporters to push for progressive change and full equality in California and across the country.

Breaking: N.Y. Lawmakers Pass Marriage Equality Bill

People in the Senate gallery react to the passage of gay marriage at the Capitol in Albany, N.Y., on Friday, June 24, 2011.
People in the Senate gallery react to the 
passage of gay marriage at the Capitol 
in Albany, N.Y., on Friday, June 24, 2011.
By Michael K. Lavers -

The New York State Senate voted 33-29 late on Friday, June 24, to approve a bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry.

"Marriage says we are a family," said gay state Sen. Tom Duane [D-Manhattan], referring to his partner Louis during an emotional speech on the Senate floor. "Louis and I are family and marriage strengthens all families. It’s going to strengthen my family and all New York families."

State Sen. Mark Grisanti [R-Buffalo] cited his Roman Catholic upbringing while speaking on the Senate floor. At the end, however, he said he could not deny someone the same rights he and his wife enjoy through marriage. "I cannot come up with an argument against same-sex marriage."

State Sen. Ruben Diaz [D-Bronx] spoke out against the measure before the vote--and he challenged Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy when he tried to stop him from prolonging the debate.

"I proudly vote no," proclaimed Diaz.

The highly anticipated vote came days after the legislative session had been scheduled to end on June 20. LGBT rights organizations view marriage equality in New York as a watershed moment in the movement for nuptials for same-sex couples.

"New York is the largest state in the country to end marriage discrimination," said Evan Wolfson, founder of Freedom to Marry. "With this victory in New York, we have doubled the number of Americans who live in states with the freedom to marry. Together, we are changing hearts and minds and building the kind of successful campaign it will take to win marriage nationwide."

Ross Levi, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, was inside the Senate chamber when the vote took place. "Love and fairness wins the day for all New Yorkers and our families," he said. "Today is a historic day and a victory for equality and justice - it is the culmination of many years of work by the Pride Agenda and others across the state. We are thrilled that finally all loving, committed New Yorkers will be able to make the commitment of marriage here in the Empire State."

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn echoed Levi.

"When I was a little girl I dreamed I would one day get married, I never imagined that it would take tonight’s Senate action to make that dream come true. Tonight’s historic Senate vote is a great moment for all New Yorkers," she said. "New York State’s recognition of marriage equality for same sex couples is an extraordinary step towards full equality for LGBT people. Tonight’s sweet victory in Albany will be felt all across America. At long last, the change we have fought for will be seen in the lives of families throughout our great state, including my own."

New York City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer [D-Queens] and his partner, Dan Hendrick, issued a statement of their own. "Today, at last, our state government has caught up with the truth that our families, colleagues and neighbors have long known: GLBT citizens deserve the same rights, recognition and respect as every other New Yorker," they said.

"History was made today in New York," added Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign. "This victory sends a message that marriage equality across the country will be a reality very soon."

The law will take effect in 30 days after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs it.
Michael K. Lavers manages the Fire Island News. His work has also appeared in the Village Voice, WNYC, the BBC, the Advocate and other media outlets. And he blogs at Boy in Bushwick []

Gov. Andrew Cuomo Signs Same-Sex Marriage Bill into Law

After a long battle followed by days of protracted deal-making, the New York State Senate narrowly approved same-sex marriage legislation Friday night, with Governor Andrew Cuomo quickly signing the measure into law in a midnight ceremony.

You did it! We just made history.

New York Civil Liberties Union - Breaking News
View this email online.
You did it! Today, New York State made history when the State Senate passed historic legislation that will allow lesbian and gay couples to marry in New York State.

This is a great victory for basic fairness and equality. New York will now become the largest state to allow lesbian and gay couples the right to marry!

Our elected officials - Democrats and Republicans alike - have stood on the right side of history by supporting fairness and equality for all New Yorkers. The State Assembly has repeatedly passed marriage legislation, and Governor Cuomo has made it a top priority. 

This victory for families and human rights could not have happened without you! You've lobbied, made phone calls, written emails, and sent faxes. Please take one more moment now to find out how your elected official voted, and to say thank you if your senator voted to pass the marriage bill. Contact your state senator now and let them know that you appreciate their important stand!

And then go celebrate. In fact, join us on Sunday at NYC Pride. The NYCLU contingent will gather at  noon at 38th Street and 5th Avenue in Manhattan.

While all New Yorkers should be proud today, we still have work to do - countless lesbian and gay people throughout the nation are still legally prohibited from protecting their families and marrying the person they love. And in New York, the NYCLU will continue its legal challenge to the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act, a law that bars the federal government from recognizing the legal marriages of same-sex couples. Tonight we celebrate. Tomorrow the work goes on.

Thank you for all you do,
The Staff of the New York Civil Liberties Union
This email was sent by the NYCLU to We value your privacy. Read our Privacy Statement online. If you no longer wish to receive these updates or would like to modify your subscription preferences, visit the Subscriber Center.

© NYCLU - New York Civil Liberties Union | | P: 212-607-3300
125 Broad Street, New York, NY 10004

We're in an Empire State of mind!

Well, it's about freakin' time!
After days of waiting, which followed months of pressure and years of groundwork, New York State has embraced marriage equality -- just in time for NYC Pride this weekend. It'll be quite the celebration, I'm sure!
Congrats definitely go out to all the groups and individuals who have worked so hard to get this done, who are too numerous to name. With this vote, we have now doubled the number of LGBT Americans who can legally marry in this country.
And our friends at Queer Rising also deserve a huge congratulations -- over the past several months they've held Governor Cuomo to his promise to pass marriage equality in New York. Utilizing nonviolent civil disobedience, they organized street closures, banner drops, and public pressure through the press...and this week they've kept up the pressure in Albany to counter the lies of the opposition, speaking truth to power, and ensuring that the legislators there knew there would be consequences to not holding this vote.
Let us be clear, though -- marriage is not the "end all, be all" of the movement for LGBT civil rights. While we're thrilled that marriage is now on the books in New York, we're pained that the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) has been shoved to the side by the Republican state legislature despite broad public support.
And New York isn't the only place where important legislation is pending. Across the country, states are taking up legislation to both add more rights and protections for LGBT Americans and, unfortunately, to try and strip rights away.
We're doing everything we can to add outside pressure to those fights in strategic ways -- to bolster the power of those doing "inside" work by creating "outside" crisis points that force resolution. We're also continuing to challenge our elected leaders at all levels -- from school boards to the President -- to stand up for our collective equality so that those living in states intent to keep LGBT folks unequal will have no choice but to respond to federal leadership. And we won't stop until all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer folks in this country are fully equal.
Today, we're celebrating Pride with a bit more dignity and a bit more equality -- but tomorrow, we have more work to do. We hope you're up for it, because we definitely are!
Get Out! Get Active! GetEQUAL!
Robin McGehee, Director
GetEQUAL icon

Find us on:

Lambda Legal loves New York

Lambda Legal: making the case for equality
After years of legal and political advocacy, New York will soon become the sixth state where same-sex couples will enjoy the freedom to marry. The State Senate just voted 33 to 29 to approve the marriage equality bill. It's thrilling news!
Equality has momentum. In addition to the six states with marriage equality, same-sex couples can also marry in the nation's capital, and 18,000 couples legally married in California before Proposition 8 was passed. That's equality for thousands of loving couples across the country.
It takes a lot of people working together to make history. We congratulate our colleagues at Empire State Pride Agenda and our other sister organizations who formed New Yorkers United for Marriage and fought so hard for this victory, and all the activists and allies in New York who wrote letters and made phone calls. We thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership, and we are proud of the state legislators who voted for equality.
The path to equality in New York, as in other states, has had twists and turns. In 2004, Lambda Legal brought a marriage equality lawsuit in state court (Hernandez v. Robles) and while we won an early victory at the trial court, that decision was later overturned. But we never stopped fighting for the rights of same–sex couples and their families in New York. We won legal battles to establish recognition of out–of–state marriages, and just last year, we won a high court decision protecting the parental rights of a lesbian mother.
New York has a special meaning for us—it is the place where Lambda Legal opened its doors in 1973, and our headquarters are located here. It is one of the most populous states in the nation and home to a very large and diverse LGBT community.
But we still have work to do—in New York and across the country. For example, New York still has not enacted a state law protecting transgender people against discrimination and it is long past time to get that done. And in many states, LGBT people still do not have basic protections against discrimination at work, in school and in their families.
Victories in one state just make us work harder for equality for everyone. Thank you for supporting equality and the work that we do!
Kevin Cathcart.
Kevin Cathcart
Executive Director
Lambda Legal

Lambda Legal. © 2003-2011 All rights reserved.
Powered By Convio
Follow us on the web! Facebook. twitter. Youtube.  

It's official... Congratulations, New York!

Freedom to Marry header
Congratulations NY In a historic vote just moments ago, the New York Senate passed a bill securing the freedom to marry for all committed and loving couples. Governor Andrew Cuomo, who championed the bill, will sign the bill into law.

We owe this immense triumph to the work we've done together, Terrence.

New York is the largest state in the country to end marriage discrimination. With this victory in New York, we have doubled the number of Americans who live in states with the freedom to marry. Together, we are changing hearts and minds and building the kind of successful campaign it will take to win marriage nationwide.

Can you help Freedom to Marry build on New York to win the next wave of states and bring an end to federal marriage discrimination? Please make a donation today:

Winning the freedom to marry in New York is without a doubt a watershed moment for our country and our campaign.

The unprecedented support we garnered from Republicans as well as Democrats, businesspeople as well as labor workers, and even pro athletes as well as clergy, demonstrates how mainstream ending the exclusion of gay and lesbian couples from marriage has become.

With New York as an engine and several polls now showing a national majority for marriage, Freedom to Marry's campaign to win marriage nationwide clearly has tremendous momentum. But great progress brings even tougher challenges alongside bright opportunities. We have more states to win and the so-called Defense of Marriage Act to overturn.

Be one of the first people to help the Freedom to Marry campaign win more states, move more hearts and minds, and bring down federal barriers.

In New York we say, "If we can make it here, we can make it anywhere." With your help, Freedom to Marry will make it everywhere -- and soon.

Thank you and congratulations!

Evan Wolfson
Founder and President, Freedom to Marry

New York Marriage Equality Passage

A great victory for equality and democracy

Equality for All is a fundamental characteristic of Democracy and New York has taken a great step to achieve such a lofty goal. And those who oppose such equality will be judged in the hindsight of history as those who opposed civil rights for all races are now judged.

...sorry about the duplicate from 2:05 to 3:21

New York Approves Gay Marriage, 6th and Largest State to Do So

Senator Stephen M. Saland explained his vote to support legalizing same sex marriage on the floor of the NY State Senate on Friday night.
ALBANY — Lawmakers voted late Friday to legalize same-sex marriage, making New York the largest state where gay and lesbian couples will be able to wed and giving the national gay-rights movement new momentum from the state where it was born.
The bill was approved on a 33-to-29 vote as 4 Republican state senators joined 29 Democrats in voting for it.
As the Senate debated the measure, supporters and opponents from around the state packed into two small galleries overlooking the chamber. When the final vote tally was read, the crowd screamed and hollered, began to chant “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” — and to yell “thank you.”  A minute or two later, when Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo entered the chamber, the crowd cheered again, rushing the edge of the galleries and chanting the governor’s name.
Senate approval was the final hurdle for the legislation, which was strongly supported by Mr. Cuomo. The Assembly approved changes made by the Senate, after passing an earlier version last week. Mr. Cuomo was expected to sign the measure soon, and the law will go into effect 30 days later, meaning that same-sex couples could begin marrying in New York by midsummer. “I am very proud of New York and the statement we made to the nation today,” Mr. Cuomo said.
The bill’s passage followed a daunting run of defeats in other states where voters barred same-sex marriage by legislative action, constitutional amendment or referendum. Just five states — Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont — permit same-sex marriage. It is also legal in : the District of Columbia.
The approval of same-sex marriage represented a reversal of fortune for gay-rights advocates in New York State, who just two years ago suffered a humiliating and unexpected defeat when a same-sex marriage bill was easily defeated in the Senate, which was then controlled by Democrats. This year, with the Senate controlled by Republicans, the odds against passage of same-sex marriage appeared long.
But the unexpected victory had an unlikely champion: Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat who pledged last year to support same-sex marriage but whose early months in office were dominated by intense battles with lawmakers and some labor unions over spending cuts.
Mr. Cuomo made same-sex marriage one of his top priorities for the year and deployed his top aide to coordinate the efforts of a half-dozen local gay-rights organizations whose feuding and disorganization had in part been blamed for the defeat two years ago. .
The new coalition of same-sex marriage supporters brought in one of Mr. Cuomo’s trusted campaign operatives to supervise a $3 million television and radio campaign aimed at persuading a handful of Republican and Democratic senators to drop their opposition.
For Senate Republicans, even bringing the measure to the floor was a freighted decision. Most of the Republicans firmly oppose same-sex marriage on moral grounds, and many of them also had political concerns, fearing that allowing same-sex marriage to pass on their watch would embitter conservative voters and cost the Republicans their one-seat majority in the Senate.
Leaders of the state’s Conservative Party — whose support many Republican lawmakers depend on to win election — warned that they would oppose in legislative elections next year any Republican senator who voted for same-sex marriage.
But after days of agonized discussion capped by a marathon nine-hour closed-door debate on Friday, Republicans came to a fateful decision: the full Senate would be allowed to vote on the bill, the majority leader, Dean G. Skelos, said Friday afternoon, and each member would be left to vote according to his or her conscience.
"The days of just bottling up things, and using these as excuses not to have votes — as far as I’m concerned as leader, its over with," Mr. Skelos, a Long Island Republican, said.
Twenty-nine Democrats voted for the measure, joined by four Republicans: James S. Alesi of Monroe County; Stephen M.. Saland, from the Hudson Valley area; Roy J. McDonald of the capital region; and Mark J. Grisanti of Buffalo.
Just one lawmaker rose to speak against the measure: Rubén Díaz, Sr. of the Bronx, the only Democratic senator to cast a no vote.
“God, not Albany, has settled the definition of marriage, a long time ago,” Mr. Diaz said.
But Mr. Grisanti, a Buffalo Republican who opposed gay marriage when he ran for election last year, said he had studied the issue closely, agonized over his responsibility as a lawmaker, and concluded he could not vote against the bill. Mr. Grisanti voted yes. “I apologize for those who feel offended,” he 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.”
The legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States is a relatively recent goal of the gay-rights movement, but over the last few years, gay-rights organizers have placed it at the center of their agenda, steering money and muscle into dozens of state capitals in an often uphill effort to persuade lawmakers.
In New York, passage of the bill reflects rapidly evolving sentiment about same-sex unions. In 2004, according to a Quinnipiac poll, 37 percent of the state’s residents supported allowing same-sex couples to wed. This year, 58 percent of them did. Advocates moved aggressively this year to capitalize on that shift, flooding the district offices of wavering lawmakers with phone calls, e-mails and signed postcards from constituents who favored same-sex marriage, sometimes in bundles that numbered in the thousands.
Dozens more states have laws or constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage, many of them approved in the last few years, as same-sex marriage moved to the front line of the culture war and politicians deployed the issue as a tool for energizing their base.
But New York could be a shift: It is now by far the largest state to grant legal recognition to same-sex weddings, and one that is home to a large, visible and politically influential gay community. Supporters of the measure described the victory in New York as especially symbolic — and poignant — because of its rich place in the history of gay rights: the movement’s foundational moment, in June of 1969, was a riot against police inside the Stonewall Inn, a bar in the West Village.
 On Friday night, as the Senate voted, a crowd jammed into the Stonewall Inn, where televisions were tuned to the Senate hours before the vote began.  Danny Garvin, 62, said he had been at the bar on the night of the riot, and came back to watch the Senate debate Friday. On the streets where police beat gay men in 1969, on Friday crowds cheered, as police quietly stood watch. Bernie Janelle, 53, turned to her partner of 16 years, Cindy Hearing, and said, “I’m going to propose to her on Sunday.”
Senate leaders hoped to limit debate to just a few speakers, angering some on both sides of the issue. Mr. Diaz was repeatedly chided for overstepping the two minutes he was allotted to explain his vote, while Kevin Parker, a Brooklyn Democrat, erupted when he and other supporters learned they would not be allowed to make a floor speech.
"This is not right," he yelled, before storming from the chamber.
During a brief recess during the voting, Shirley Huntley, a Queens Democrat who had only recently come out in support of same sex marriage, strode from her seat to the back of the Senate chamber to congratulate Daniel J. O’Donnell, an openly gay Manhattan lawmaker who sponsored the legislation in the Assembly.
They hugged, and Mr. O’Donnell, standing with his longtime partner, teared up.
"We’re going to invite you to our wedding” Mr. O’Donnell said. “Now we have to figure out how to pay for one."
Just before the Senate’s marriage vote, lawmakers in the Senate and Assembly also approved a broad package of major legislation that constituted the remainder of their agenda for the year. The bills included a cap on local property tax increases, and a strengthening of New York’s rent regulation laws, as well as a five-year tuition increase at the State University of New York and the City University of New York.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Statement from Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos on Same Sex Marriage Legislation

After many hours of deliberation and discussion over the past several weeks among the members, it has been decided that same sex marriage legislation will be brought to the full Senate for an up or down vote.

The entire Senate Republican Conference was insistent that amendments be made to the Governor’s original bill in order to protect the rights of religious institutions and not-for-profits  with religious affiliations.  I appreciate the Governor’s cooperation in working with us to address these important issues and concerns.

As I have said many times, this is a very difficult issue and it will be a vote of conscience for every member of the Senate.

State Senate to Vote on Same-Sex Marriage Tonight!


ALBANY — The State Senate will vote on same-sex marriage, a leading Republican state senator said on Friday, setting the stage for a final decision on the most closely watched issue facing the Legislature as it wraps up its annual session. The exact timing was unclear, thought it was expected to occur much later in the evening.
The marriage measure, which was proposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and approved by the state Assembly, has been publicly endorsed by 31 of the 62 senators — leaving the measure one vote shy of the votes needed for passage in the Senate. The announced supporters include 29 of the 30 Senate Democrats and 2 of the 32 Senate Republicans. Supporters and opponents alike said that anything could happen when the Senate takes its vote.
The Senate easily defeated a same-sex marriage measure in 2009, when the chamber was controlled by Democrats; improbably, it seemed to face better odds this year, when it is controlled by Republicans, because Mr. Cuomo has succeeded in persuading all but one Democrat to support the measure, and because a few Republicans have changed their votes. Mr. Cuomo, a first-term Democrat, has said that passage of same-sex marriage is one of his top priorities.
The decision by Senate Republican leaders to allow a vote followed a week of intense behind-the-scenes negotiation between Mr. Cuomo and Senate Republicans, much of it focused on whether or not the governor’s proposal went far enough in protecting religious institutions that do not approve of same-sex unions.
Opponents of same-sex marriage rallied in force on Monday, gathering outside the Senate chambers to sing and chant, as their leaders delivered petitions with 63,000 signatures of New Yorkers opposing the legalization of same-sex weddings. Supporters, in turn, staged a rally at the Capitol on Tuesday, and representatives of both sides have been holding signs and talking with lawmakers in the halls of the Capitol throughout the week.
Should the bill pass the Legislature, New York would become the sixth and largest state in which gay and lesbian couples can legally wed, intensifying an evolving national debate over the role of gays and lesbians in American society and giving new momentum to a movement that had stalled in recent years.

US Census Data Shows One-Quarter of All Gay Couples Are Raising Children

According to the findings of the 2010 U.S. Census, one-quarter of all lesbian and gay couples throughout the United States are raising children. The Williams Institute of UCLA is releasing summaries for each state, showing the percentage of lesbian and gay couples with children who live there. Data has thus far been released for Hawaii, Alabama, Wyoming, Delaware, Kansas, Pennsylvania, California and New York. This is the first time the census has counted lesbian and gay couples and their children, providing a more accurate picture of gay parents and their families.
The census findings bring a new perspective to the movement towards marriage equality. Data from Hawaii and Alabama clearly discredits the claim by marriage equality opponents that marriage for straight couples is primarily about starting a family. In both states,  42% of straight couples – less than half – are raising children. In New York, where a marriage equality bill is pending in the Senate, the numbers have particular relevance. An estimated 14,000 children in New York are being raised by lesbian and gay couples. Stuart Gaffney, a spokesperson for Marriage Equality USA, commented on the census, saying, “This is the first time it accurately reflects families that have always been there. It’s something we find out when they are lobbying in legislatures like Albany right now and reps say they don’t have someone in their district who it matters to.”
Lesbian and gay couples who are raising children while being denied the opportunity to marry can face unique challenges. State laws around adoption and surrogacy often create barriers for gay couples who are not married but hope to become parents. One partner in a couple may also be prevented from becoming a legal parent to their child, depending on whether local laws allow unmarried partners to jointly adopt.
Just as significant, without the ability to marry, families headed by lesbian and gay parents face emotional hardships as well. In an article recently published by the Huffington Post, Sarah Kate Ellis of New York wrote honestly about her concern for her family’s well-being without marriage equality, saying, “My children will come to realize the state and country they live in does not consider their moms as equal, and that, I fear, will damage their self-esteem. That they will, without their young minds even knowing it, feel less important. As they move through their daily lives they will subversively learn that they are second to the boys and girls in their classroom, at their swim club, and on their little league fields.”
Currently five states – Vermont, Iowa, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire, as well as the District of Columbia – have enacted marriage equality. Without the protections afforded by marriage, lesbian and gay parents are vulnerable to a number of legal obstacles. This census data highlights the depth of their struggles. As Steven Gaffney asserts, “That’s why it’s so critical to show we are in every state, every county in the United States. There are constituents and they need to know we are here.” Speaking specifically in anticipation of the possible vote by the New York Senate, Sarah Kate Ellis remarked, “It is a mother’s instinct to protect her children, and without the Marriage Equality Act, my children, and the thousands of children of gay and lesbian parents, will effectively be tossed into the deep end of the pool without life jackets. We need to validate and protect them.”

Trans World News

While the United Nations has endorsed the rights of GLBT people for the first time ever, the acclaim was definitely not universal. Americans may have called it historic, but in many African and Muslim nations, have expressed their profound disappointment with the UN (response to that).

This represents a historic moment to highlight the human rights abuses and violations that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people face around the world based solely on who they are and whom they love.

--U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

The major outcome of the resolution will be the establishment of a UN process to document human rights abuses against GLBT people. Same-sex relations are illegal in 76 countries around the world. Harassment and discrimination are common in many others.

This marks a significant milestone in the long struggle for equality, and the beginning of a universal recognition that (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) persons are endowed with the same inalienable rights — and entitled to the same protections — as all human beings,

--White House statement

When we look at the world around us, what are we seeing?

Judge: Woman doesn't have to testify against same-sex spouse

Williamsport woman acquitted of assault

A Washington County Circuit Court judge Thursday acquitted a Williamsport woman of assault after ruling that her same-sex spouse could invoke her privilege not to testify against the defendant.

Judge Donald E. Beachley ruled that, under the "principle of comity," or legal reciprocity between states, Maryland generally recognizes a marriage as valid as long as it was valid in the jurisdiction in which it took place.

While Maryland does not allow same-sex couples to marry, it can recognize same-sex marriages performed outside its borders, in this case, Washington, D.C.

Deborah Snowden, 50, of Williamsport, was charged in December 2010 with second-degree assault and reckless endangerment for allegedly threatening Sha'rron Snowden with a knife. The couple married in Washington, where same-sex marriages are legal, in August 2010.

Deborah Snowden's trial on the assault charge began in April. But when she was called to the stand, Sha'rron Snowden invoked her spousal privilege not to testify.

Beachley suspended the trial at that time to allow Deborah Snowden's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Carl Somerlock, and the Washington County State's Attorney's Office to prepare arguments over whether the privilege accorded to heterosexual married couples also extends to same-sex spouses.

It was a case that drew the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal, which submitted a joint legal brief asserting that the right not to testify against one's spouse should apply equally to same-sex couples who were legally married outside the state.

Maryland has extended many rights to same-sex couples, such as adoption, health insurance benefits for partners of state employees and anti-discrimination laws, Beachley said. The Maryland General Assembly has also not specifically prohibited the recognition of same-sex couples from other jurisdictions, the judge said.

An exception to recognizing a marriage from another jurisdiction would be if the union were deemed "repugnant to public policy," a conclusion Beachley said would be unlikely for a higher state court to support considering Maryland's record of granting rights to homosexual couples.

The right to invoke the marital privilege was created by statute, Deputy State's Attorney Joseph Michael argued before Beachley. The statute has several exceptions, such as for cases involving child abuse, where the spouse cannot invoke the privilege, he said.

"It's a legislative matter. If they want to clarify it, they can clarify it," Michael said.

The spousal privilege statue and the state law that only marriages between a man and a woman are valid in Maryland have not been changed to include same-sex couples, he said.

Somerlock cited Loving v. Virginia, a 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the right of interracial couples to marry, as being similar to the Snowden case.

"Marriage is one of the basic human rights of man," Somerlock said. The issue was not that the police or the prosecution did anything wrong, but equal protection under the law, he said.

"The only claim we've made is that to not allow them the same privileges of other traditional marriages denies them the rights they seek when they get married," Somerlock said after the hearing.

"In Maryland, we operate under the default marriage recognition rule," said Susan Sommer, Lambda Legal's director of constitutional litigation, arguing on behalf of Sha'rron Snowden. Maryland law does not specifically state it does not recognize same-sex marriages from other states, she said.

Sha'rron Snowden was not present during the hearing, but following Beachley's decision, she was called in to resume the trial against Deborah Snowden. She took the stand and again invoked her spousal privilege not to testify, after which Beachley granted a defense motion for acquittal.

The couple left the courthouse hand-in-hand, declining to answer questions from reporters.