NY same-sex marriage bill defeated, life goes on
Mood: optimistic
Posted on 2009-12-02 14:38:00
Tags: essay gay politics
Words: 244

The New York same-sex marriage bill, which passed the state assembly 88-51, was defeated in the state senate 38-24, which isn't even close. (Anyone who knows anything about NY politics: why is the state senate so against it while the state assembly is so for it? It seems weird to me.)

Between this and the Maine defeat, as @fivethirtyeight tweeted: "But boy, its been a rough couple of months for progressives." Indeed.

Perhaps it's time to change our strategy - it seems like the votes just aren't there in most places for same-sex marriage. Looking at the same-sex marriage map (which I apologize for linking every time I write about this stuff, but it's a good way to see at a glance where we are, and can't a guy self-promote a bit?) same-sex marriage is legal in 4 states (and will be in 5 when New Hampshire's law takes effect in January) and civil unions are available in 5 more, plus DC. I think we should focus on picking off more states where there are no civil unions and trying to push civil unions there - they have fairly broad support, and from a practical perspective there's not much difference, especially since no same-sex marriages are being recognized at the federal level anyway. Maybe Maryland, or Illinois, or Rhode Island, or (heck) New York?

Getting actual rights for gay couples in other states is a lot more important to me than getting their unions called "marriage".


Comment from liz_gregory:

I agree.

To me, it seems like there's more of a fight for the recognition of the status given by the word "marriage" rather than the legal or social rights associated with it. I would much rather see universal civil unions with all the legal, medical, heritability, etc rights that go with it than only a few states recognizing marriage. Many people are very emotionally wrapped up in the principal of the thing, and not wanting to take the baby steps first.

radical change is hard. Just ask 2nd century Christians discussing the nature of the trinity or 18th and 19th century Christians faced with a heliocentric universe or general relativity!

Comment from taesmar:

Yeah, everyone was so worked up over California's prop whatever to disallow gay marriage. California has really robust civil union laws, so while it sucks that people are being closed-minded, the rights are still there.

Comment from djedi:

I'll mostly agree with this except that there are some differences. First, a lot of rights won't be extended until there's federal support.

Second, civil unions aren't marriages and despite what people say won't carry exactly the same weight. Imagine a national company that has a branch/office in say Iowa (gay marriage) and Nevada (civil unions). Even without federal support, Iowa law probably forces the company to treat gay marriages like straight marriages because of equal protection under the law. Thus the company would extend all of its marriage benefits to gays, like health insurance. But history has shown that that is not true for civil unions/domestic partners. Many companies, some as a rule, do not recognize civil unions, esp since they vary on a state by state basis. Until we have a federal law that states civil unions are EQUIVALENT to marriages for all legal "intents and purposes", then the differences are more than just the word.

Comment from djedi:

Civil unions are a more possible, but more complicated strategy. Not only do we need state by state support but you still need federal support to pull it off.

It's like solving poverty in the US by distributing to poor people monopoly money. And then you have to go to each state and get them to say that at state agencies, poor people can use monopoly money like real money. Of course, most companies still wouldn't accept it and of course neither would the US gov't. The real success hinges on getting the US gov't to force recognition of monopoly money to be on teh same legal level as real money.

And even if you do that, and all companies and agencies are forced to recognize monopoly money to be the same as real money...how long do you think it will take to get rid of the social stigma on the poor people having to use fake money because they "can't afford real money"?

Comment from gregstoll:

I agree, but I'm sufficiently pessimistic about repealing DOMA that I'm afraid it won't be an issue for a while.

Comment from abstractseaweed:

I have those same concerns, and was going to make a similar comment. Private companies don't grant the privileges to civil unions that they do to marriage unless they specifically make an effort to spell it out. Requiring companies to be more verbose in order to grant equal benefits doesn't seem like the best option long-term, but it could be a stepping stone.

I was heartened to see the following example of verbosity in a travel insurance plan: "Immediate family members are: spouses or a person you’ve lived with in a spousal-like relationship for at least 12 consecutive months..." Without all those extra words it would just say "spouses", which would not include civil unions. So companies CAN be fair, but without full marriage rights it requires extra effort on their part.

This backup was done by LJBackup.