I believe that same-sex marriage will be approved by a majority of the 50 states in the Union within the next five years. When that occurs, the federal resistance will end and the Congress will vote in favor of federal recognition of same-sex marriages with equal benefits to both homosexual and heterosexual couples.
Those who are opposed to same-sex marriage on religious grounds should know that no religious institution is now being coerced or will in the future be forced to perform same-sex weddings. The decision of whether to sanctify same-sex marriages is totally up to the religious leaders. It is a near certainty that the Catholic Church and Orthodox synagogues will continue to refuse to officiate at same-sex weddings, while some Protestant churches and reform and conservative synagogues will continue to be open to the practice.
It is the right of all religions to determine their own responses. But the issue here is not religious, but civil marriage. As a matter of fundamental fairness, civil marriage must be made available for all consenting adults, irrespective of sexual orientation. And it will happen, more quickly than the public thinks. In the United States today, five states have approved the right of same-sex marriage, either through legislative action or court decree. They are Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, and Vermont.
The next state in all probability to legislatively approve same-sex marriage is New York. Currently, as a result of Gov. David Paterson’s executive order, New York state recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other states, and accords same-sex couples who were legally married in other states the benefits provided to married heterosexual couples that state agencies can do administratively. The New York Times reported on May 29, 2008, “Legal experts said Mr. Paterson’s decision would make New York the only state that did not itself allow gay marriage but fully recognized same-sex unions entered into elsewhere.”
Efforts are now underway to bring the issue of same-sex marriage to a vote in both Houses in Albany. There is little doubt that the Assembly, given the opportunity, will pass such legislation, it having done so in 2007. According to The New York Times, such a vote is scheduled for May 12. The New York Senate is more problematic. The Times reports, “There, proponents believe they have about two dozen of the 32 votes needed for approval, including those of 19 Democrats who have signed on as sponsors of the measure. Four of the Senate’s 32 Democrats have said they will vote against the legislation, and so far not a single Republican has publicly committed to supporting it.”
When the New York City Council in 1986 was faced with a vote on a bill that I introduced that barred sexual orientation discrimination in the private sector in employment, housing and education, I as mayor, having already barred such discrimination by the city government by executive order in 1978, called into my office those members of the city council, Democrat and Republican, who were wavering on the issue. I told them that if their primary opponents or general election opponents used their “yea” vote on the issue against them, I would support them irrespective of their party affiliation and campaign for them.
My suggestion is that the governor do the same. Because of the governor’s low popularity, there should also be an effort to assemble a broad, bipartisan coalition of private and distinguished citizens that would make the same commitment.
The very next political objective of civil rights advocates should be to achieve in every state that which exists now in New York state, a law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Today, only 20 states protect their homosexual citizens from discrimination.
There are cities in some states that have adopted protective legislation where the state has declined, as was the case in New York City. The Empire State Pride Agenda has informed me that the organization has no current compilation of the number of cities providing protection.
Simultaneously, at the federal level, an effort should be made to end President Clinton’s alleged compromise of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which, regrettably, caused even more gays and lesbians than before the law was adopted to be discharged from the U.S. armed forces.
Men and women should be able to serve in the armed forces without regard to their sexual orientation and without any requirement that they conceal it. Of the 28 nations that participate militarily in NATO, more than 20 permit lesbians, gays, or bisexuals to serve openly. The common sense rule that should apply with respect to military service is that anyone forcing his or her attentions on another individual, or engaging in lewd conduct should be subject to discipline and appropriately punished.
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