New York State Senators were expected this week to approve a bill that would legalize same-sex marriages. If a similar bill is approved in the Assembly, and signed by the governor as expected, the law would make the Empire State the largest in the country to allow couples to marry regardless of their gender. If this happens, it would be a landmark moment not just in the gay rights movement but for human rights in the United States as a whole.
It has become increasingly difficult for elected officials in even the most conservative New York districts to rationally defend their preference for supposedly separate-but-equal civil unions. This half-step does not, nor would it ever, guarantee same-sex couples all the legal rights and privileges that heterosexual couples enjoy. Access to estate planning, tax parity, and the ability to make health care decisions for a dying spouse, for example, have never been fully allowed by civil unions.
No understanding of the fundamental principles of the United States can support the idea that government has a place in saying who can marry. Many engaged in this path toward equality share the hope that a positive vote in New York will be followed in other states, even in Congress, which produced the shameful Defense of Marriage Act that allows the federal government to intrude in the most personal of decisions.
Let our state help lead the nation in saying to its people, whether gay or straight, that they are free to marry whom they want. Let New York show the world once again how big its heart is.