Published on The Daily Femme – Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Contributed by Annamarya
My mother called me at 11:09 pm on Friday night to tell me our homestate of New York had passed the Marriage Equality Act, making it the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage, joining Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, and Iowa, plus Washington D.C. With the passage of the Marriage Equality Act, which goes into effect in 30 days, New York becomes the largest state to grant same-sex couples the legal right to wed, more than doubling the number of people allowed to do so from 15.7 million to 35 million, according to American Civil Liberties Union. And since you don’t have to be a New York resident to get married there, that means my two moms, who have been in love with and dedicated to each other for nearly two decades, can finally legally bind their relationship and enjoy the rights they should have had all along (while my moms, my sisters and I are New York natives, we all live in Pennsylvania. Our brother still lives in Brooklyn).
New York legalizing same-sex marriage has also renewed hope in the fight for marriage equality, with many looking towards this new law as a potential accelerator for states to follow in its footsteps. But I’m not as confident, and equally frustrated that the purportedly progressive, cultural diverse and tolerant New York has waited so long to make this right a reality. It’s not to say we shouldn’t remain optimistic. It’s to say we shouldn’t be idealistic about the future. As the above map shows, a tiny handful of states recognize or allow same-sex marriage or civil unions. In the 42 years since the Stonewall riots in New York and the jump-start of the LGBTQ civil rights movement, only six states have granted same-sex couples the fundamental right to marriage, only 20 states ban discrimination on the basis of sexuality, and only 13 ban discrimination on the basis of gender identity/discrimination (there is still no federal law protecting the LGBTQ community from discrimination in the workplace). In Pennsylvania, the insufferable Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) re-introduced the House Bll 1434, known as the Marriage Protection Amendment in May in effort to define marriage in the state’s constitution as between “one man and one women” and absolutely strip same-sex couples rights to even civil unions. According to theWashington Post, the National Organization for Marriage took to Twitter after the Marriage Equality Act passed, proclaiming that “Marriage loses 33-29 in New York. Sad day for the state and the country. But the fight has just begun.” Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn released a statement bashing the legislation, calling on Cathothic schools to protest “these disturbing developments.” And what would the Bishop like the private educational institutions to do? “Refuse any distinction or honors bestowed upon them this year by the governor or any member of the legislature who voted to support this legislation. Furthermore, I have asked all pastors and principals to not invite any state legislator to speak or be present at any parish or school celebration.”
So as much as what happened in New York gave communities the feeling of assurance, it also fueled the fire of those looking to suppress marriage equality. While we will fight harder and fiercer to ensure they don’t win, they will fight harder and fiercer to ensure same-sex couples are denied the right to marry. If the Obama Administration’s declaration that the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional didn’t have a deep impact (after all, the US House of Representatives is still defending the discriminatory law), how can we expect this to? In the end, as Lyle Denniston writes for the Constitution Daily, much of the future depends on the outcome in California, where the U.S. Constitution will be the determining factor in the hearing of Perry v. Brown, the famous case challenging the state’s same-sex marriage ban, Proposition 8, in California’s Supreme Court in September. If the case, then, reaches the US Supreme Court, and SCOTUS determines the same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, then we have a viable court argument against other state bans and against the Defense of Marriage Act. Until then, we can’t let our guards down. We can’t look to or expect what happened in New York to have this wide-sweeping effect across the country. This is just another victory. This isn’t the end.