17 June 2011

Same-Sex Marriage In New York: Just One More Vote...

The buzz has been about marriage, at least here in New York.  The bill to allow same-sex marriages has been approved by the state Assembly, and is said to be a mere vote away from being voted in by the state Senate.

Actually, we've been here before.  Four years ago, the Assembly, which had and has a Democratic majority, voted for the bill.  However, the Senate, which has had a Republican majority for decades, voted against it.  But a year later, David Paterson, who became Governor after Eliot Spitzer resigned, directed all State agencies to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions, and in Canada, for the purpose of determining benefits.  So, for example, the partner of a lesbian working in the Department of Motor Vehicles would be entitled to the same health insurance and such as the wife or husband of a heterosexual employee.

Once again, though, the state Senate blocked the bill allowing same-sex marriage.

This battle between the Assembly and Senate is the reason why the State's human rights laws include no provisions for transgenders (i.e., language that protects "gender identity and expression").  What's worse it that the Senate has prevented the inclusion of such provisions for the past forty years.

As I understand it, some state Senators are willing to vote for same-sex marriage as long as there is no protection for transgenders.   And others want exemptions for religious institutions. So a program that was funded by the Catholic Church, or any other, could refuse to recognize same-sex marriages and grant benefits to the spouses of their gay employees.

The Legislature will hold its last session on Monday before going into recess.  Some Assembly members are trying to get an extension for the bill that would allow for a vote after the Legislature returns.  Otherwise, the bill would be shelved and would have to be re-introduced in future sessions of the Legislature.