TV & Radio
The New York Times
April 30, 2007
A Push to Legalize Gay Marriage (5 Letters)
To the Editor:
Re “Mr. Spitzer and Gay Marriage” (editorial, April 24):
Sincere thanks to Gov. Eliot Spitzer for wanting to help make marriage a reality for New York State’s gay and lesbian couples.
My partner, David, and I have been married in all but name for more than 13 years. We are often asked why we haven’t had a commitment ceremony, or even been married in Canada.
We will get married when it is legal in New York State. Until that time comes, something less than marriage doesn’t seem, to us, a real reason to celebrate.
Paul D. Poux
New York, April 24, 2007
To the Editor:
Thank you for the sensitive and sensible editorial supporting Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s intentions for legislating gay marriage in New York.
But where is the leadership on a national level? Perhaps it’s too much to expect from a presidential candidate, but there must be some people “brave” enough to assert themselves for such a sensible cause — Bill Clinton or Al Gore, perhaps?
It is painful to realize that there are so many who chose to ignore the gays and lesbians left “sitting at the back of the bus.”
Venice, Calif., April 24, 2007
To the Editor:
I applaud your editorial backing Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s intention to introduce a bill legalizing same-sex marriages. While Mr. Spitzer will certainly face “outspoken opponents” among religious organizations, not all faith groups oppose marriage equality.
Unitarian Universalists have advocated for legal marriage rights for same-sex couples since 1996. And while we acknowledge the right of other religions to refuse to perform wedding ceremonies for any reason, Unitarian Universalist ministers have joyfully officiated at same-sex religious unions for several decades.
In my home state, Massachusetts, marriage equality has been the law for nearly three years. We have seen how quickly the extraordinary becomes ordinary.
The sun still rises and sets every day, but now it shines on several thousand more couples whose commitments to one another are legally recognized by the state.
If the institution of marriage is good for couples, good for families, and good for society, then we all benefit when this institution is free from discrimination.
Marriage is a civil right.
(Rev.) William G. Sinkford
Boston, April 24, 2007
The writer is president, Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.
To the Editor:
You’re worried that religious groups might “dictate who can and who cannot be married by the state” (editorial, April 24)?
Consider this: my Christian faith profoundly informs the way I vote. If I believe that a legislative proposal threatens the common good, I will vote against it and encourage others to do the same.
That’s not dictatorial. That’s democracy.
(Rev.) James D. Miller
Tulsa, Okla., April 25, 2007
The writer is pastor of the First Presbyterian Church.
To the Editor:
In response to your editorial, I would like to point out that not all religious groups will oppose a bill to legalize same-sex marriage.
My congregation is the largest gay and lesbian synagogue in the world, and we wholeheartedly support Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s move to embrace justice for all by legalizing same-sex marriage. As a rabbi who has officiated at dozens of same-sex marriages in New York City, I would like to see these unions recognized by the state.
I look forward to a day when all religious groups recognize that whether gay, lesbian, transgender or straight, we are all created in God’s image.
New York, April 24, 2007
The writer is senior rabbi, Congregation Beth Simchat Torah.
April 24, 2007
Mr. Spitzer and Gay Marriage
The news that Gov. Eliot Spitzer will soon introduce a bill to legalize same-sex marriage — what he calls “a simple moral imperative” — is welcome and could give new national momentum to this important cause. Mr. Spitzer would be the first governor in the nation to introduce a gay marriage bill. But if he is going to make a real difference, rather than simply checking off a box to fulfill a campaign promise, he will have to fight for the law vigorously.
Even in a progressive state like New York, this will be a steep political climb. So far, only Massachusetts has enacted a gay marriage law — after its highest court held that gay couples had a right under the State Constitution — and while there is a similar bill working its way through the Connecticut legislature, its prospects are uncertain. Civil unions or domestic partnerships involving same-sex couples are now recognized by a small but growing number of states, including Connecticut, New Jersey, Vermont, California, Hawaii and Maine. It is an indication of how big a challenge Mr. Spitzer faces that New York is not, and hasn’t come close to being, on this list.
Mr. Spitzer is right to be fighting for gay marriage. Civil unions and domestic partnerships are an important recognition of gay relationships by a state. But they still represent separate and unequal treatment. One federal study identified more than 1,100 rights or benefits that are accorded only to the legally married. That means that even in states recognizing civil unions and domestic partnerships, gay couples often have to use legal contortions to protect their families in ways that married couples take for granted. Gay couples may also be discriminated against when it comes to taxes and pension benefits.
The next step in building momentum for gay marriage in New York will be to get the State Assembly, which has a Democratic majority, on board. Speaker Sheldon Silver has said he will not take a stand until he talks with his fellow Democrats. But most of those Democrats have already publicly expressed support for gay marriage, so Mr. Silver has no excuse to delay. He should make it clear that he will join Governor Spitzer and press for the legislation’s swift passage.
The biggest stumbling block is likely to be, as it always is for gay rights measures in New York, the State Senate, which is controlled by Republicans. The majority leader, Joseph Bruno, has made it clear that he is against same-sex marriage, but he is also a pragmatist whose views on these issues have evolved and become more humane over the years.
Religious groups, particularly the Catholic Church, are likely to be the bill’s most outspoken opponents. It should be clear that these religious institutions have the right to refuse to marry anyone within their own religious houses. But they should not be allowed to dictate who can and cannot be married by the state.
Mr. Spitzer did not make gay marriage a priority in his first 100 days in office, and he did not mention it in his State of the State address or, more recently, when he laid out his agenda for the remainder of the legislative session. That may simply have been a pragmatic assessment that the bill would not pass right away.
Now that he is ready to move, we are eager to hear him speak out more on this issue. There will be nothing easy about championing this simple moral imperative. But it is a fight well worth the governor’s full efforts.
April 23, 2007
Spitzer Plans to Introduce Gay Marriage Bill
By NICHOLAS CONFESSORE
Gov. Eliot Spitzer will introduce a bill in the coming weeks to legalize same-sex marriage in New York, his spokeswoman said Friday, a move that would propel New York to the forefront of one of the most contentious issues in politics.
Though he has long voiced support for same-sex marriage and promised during his campaign last year to introduce legislation to legalize it, Mr. Spitzer did not mention the issue in his State of the State speech in January or in remarks a week ago outlining his priorities for the remainder of the legislative session, which ends June 21.
But the spokeswoman, Christine Anderson, said that Mr. Spitzer would not back away from his campaign pledge.
“The governor made a commitment to advance a program bill, and he will fulfill that commitment during this legislative session,” Ms. Anderson said, using the term that refers to legislation introduced directly by the governor rather than through a state agency or by the Legislature.
Several states allow some form of civil unions for same-sex couples, including Connecticut, where lawmakers are debating a measure that would legalize marriage for lesbians and gay men. Massachusetts is the only state where same-sex marriage is legal.
Any legislation to make New York the second such state would face a steep climb in Albany, a fact that Mr. Spitzer has acknowledged. Explaining why he did not include the gay-marriage bill among his post-budget legislative priorities, Mr. Spitzer said last week that he “was listing bills that I think we can and should get passed by the Legislature in the next few weeks. And so I am focusing now on politics as the art of the possible.
“I think most who are close to the issue would agree with me that it’s not likely to be passed in the next nine and a half weeks,” Mr. Spitzer added.
Legislation to allow same-sex marriage has never made it to a floor vote in either the Assembly, which has a Democratic majority, or the Republican-controlled State Senate. Sheldon Silver, the Assembly speaker, has declined to take a stand on the issue. Joseph L. Bruno, the Senate majority leader, has supported legislation to outlaw hate crimes and workplace discrimination against gays, but he remains opposed to same-sex marriage.
Even among lawmakers who say they favor the legislation, there is some division over the best strategy to get it passed. Two legislators from Manhattan, State Senator Thomas K. Duane and Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried, both Democrats, have tried for several years to shepherd a gay-marriage bill through the Legislature and are trying again this year. That bill has at least 14 sponsors in the Senate and 42 in the Assembly.
If Mr. Spitzer does propose a bill, it is unclear how much muscle he will be willing — or able — to put behind it. The priorities he has outlined — such as overhauling the state’s campaign finance laws and introducing a constitutional amendment to require nonpartisan legislative redistricting — already pose a considerable challenge. That would leave Mr. Spitzer with little political bandwidth that would allow him to build support for another controversial bill.
The governor has also had few opportunities to build bridges to constituencies that present the strongest grass-roots opposition to gay marriage, such as Roman Catholic Church officials and other religious leaders. Church leaders already oppose Mr. Spitzer’s support of embryonic stem cell research, and an initiative that might have softened the blow of gay marriage — a tax credit for parents who send children to religious or other private schools — did not make it into the budget this year.
Gay-rights groups are scheduled to convene in Albany early next month for a day of lobbying, and several lawmakers and same-sex marriage advocates said they hoped that Mr. Spitzer would introduce his proposal before then.
“I don’t think the governor has dropped the ball on this,” said Alan Van Capelle, executive director of Empire State Pride Agenda, a gay-rights group. “We’ve been talking with the governor’s people about this. At every moment they have brainstormed with us in some very creative ways about how to accomplish this agenda.”
Mr. Van Capelle said he shared Mr. Spitzer’s assessment that the measure was unlikely to pass both chambers of the Legislature this year, but he emphasized that the governor’s proposal would give it strategic and symbolic weight.
Gary Parker, the founder of Greater Voices, a coalition of gay-oriented political clubs in New York City, said the fact that every statewide elected official now supports gay marriage had heartened advocates.
“During the Pataki administration, there was a lot of frustration,” Mr. Parker said. “We felt extremely stagnant and stifled. Now there is movement. And the fact that there is discussion is progress.”