Rooting for NYS to honor its heritage with gay marriage nod …

June 16, 2011
By admin

As a longtime New Yorker now transplanted to the Midwest, I am watching the doings at the New York State Legislature with a good deal of interest. The Senate is expected to vote tomorrow on a bill that would add New York to a list of a handful of progressive states that have granted the right to same-sex marriage.

For me, this has even more significance, because it was only five years ago that my current state of residence decided to go in the other direction and add an amendment to the Wisconsin constitution that denied gays the same right to marry that is enjoyed by everyone else. That shabby maneuver was even more deplorable than what might take place in Albany tomorrow, because it was predicated on even more disingenuous grounds than what same-sex marriage opponents are offering as arguments.

In Wisconsin, the shameful amendment was conjured up as little more than an election-year enticement to enhance voter turnout from the values-based far right. Imagine how it must have felt for those in Wisconsin who might have dreamed of their own wedding possibilities: the state government cruelly crafted and then pushed through legislation that created an entire class of Wisconsin residents of decidedly second-class status.

And so with the pull of a lever, millions of Wisconsin voters blithely decided that thousands of their fellow citizens would be relegated to a set of rights and opportunities markedly inferior to that which was available to the wider populace. It makes it all the more maddening to realize that every malicious little gesture like that does nothing more than postpone the day when our country inches ever closer to truly embracing the ideals that we gush about from our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution.

All that blather is nicely suited for Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, but in the intervening months we’re truly a lot better at marginalizing this or that minority than we are at embracing our own ideals. In Albany, it’s technically a different scenario, since it’s the state legislature that is poised to take the vote, but the impact on those who might have plans to marry is hardly any different.

To all of those who roll out religious arguments that would ultimately single out their fellow citizens for discrimination, I say chill. Nobody is saying any religious group has to take part in same-sex marriages, but instead would insist that the state has no right to deny one specific group the same rights and privileges that are afforded to everyone else. The same rights that protect your religion from interference by the government are designed to protect individuals from being relegated to second-class status simply because they are in the minority.

While all the protestations about saving marriage, protecting the family, etc., are seemingly cloaked in a language of apparent reasonableness that allows the true discriminatory practice to be gussied up to look like something more palatable, the result is the same. If I vote to deny someone the right to marry – my goofy rationalizations be damned – the individuals in question will be quite literally hurt for no other reason than my own prejudices.

And do you want to know what really frosts my grommet? What the opponents of same-sex marriage are doing now is not demonstrably different than what whites in the Deep South were doing in the 1950’s. Equal rights for blacks were going to arrive; it was only a matter of how long people would have to wait for justice to be served.

Eventually, everybody in the United States will be treated with the same respect and dignity as everybody else, including the right for gays to marry, and anything we do in the intervening years to halt that does nothing more than perpetuate injustice and hurt individuals and families along the way.

Not all questions have two equally valid points of argument. As in the case of the sustained Jim Crow laws and wretched discrimination against blacks in the 20th century, there is a right and a wrong. Denying gays the same rights afforded else is wrong. If that’s your view, you’re on the wrong side of history, and more importantly, you’re on the wrong side of everything that we jabber about on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.

I’m rooting for my Empire State pals to do the right thing, but even if the forces of hate and intolerance should somehow prevail (it’s likely to be a close vote), it will be short lived. We’re going to collectively do the right thing in this country: all that’s left to decide is how long it will take for us to do so and how many of our fellow citizens will we shortchange along the way.
- T.S. O’Connell


(I couldn’t resist the opportunity to run the adjacent photo of the Empire State Plaza in Albany shown here. Of the four Agency buildings shown on the left-hand side of the photo, I worked in the one farthest to the left, on the 14th floor.)

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