Same-Sex Marriage Is Taking the Northeast By Storm

With same-sex marriage in the national spotlight after New York’s legalization, the stories just keep rolling in.

For starters, the kicking and screaming!

Let’s begin in upstate Volney, New York, where Barbara MacEwen, a 75-year old Republican and the town clerk responsible for signing marriage licenses, says she will not sign any marriage documents for gay or lesbian couples because she is morally opposed to equal rights, apparently.

She doesn’t anticipate this being a major problem because: “I don’t know of anybody like that in my town. I’m sure that there might be, but I haven’t heard about anybody.”

A little bit more extreme than Barbara and her Town of No Gays is what’s happening with the Catholic community in Brooklyn, where Nicholas DiMarzio, bishop of Brooklyn, who’s already shared some strong words about the bill this week, is calling on his members “not to bestow or accept honors, nor to extend a platform of any kind to any state elected officials, in all our parishes and churches for the foreseeable future.”

The Washington Post has four views on this issue and only half of them are completely crazy. You should read them all. Highlights include this quote from Susan Brooks Thislethwaite:

In effect, according to this bishop, “any state official” has to play by the rules of the Catholic Church. That’s not just crossing the line that should separate church and state, it’s drawing a line in the sand that elected officials are not supposed to cross.

And one from Herb Silverman:

“Thank you, Bishop DiMarzio, for inadvertently reminding the apathetic public why separating religion from government is so critically important. In trying to become more politically relevant, I hope the latest pronouncement of the Catholic Church will make that church even less relevant. As far as I can tell, the Catholic Church is on the wrong side of all issues pertaining to sex.”

Meanwhile in New Jersey, Garden State Equality and seven same-sex couples and their children filed a suit today arguing that same-sex marriages should be recognized by the state:

Their main argument is that the state Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that same sex couples should be guaranteed the same rights as heterosexual married couples, but in a 4-3 vote left it up to the Legislature how to achieve that. The minority in that decision said the state needed to allow marriage for same-sex couples.

The Legislature chose civil unions instead, which come with the exact same legal rights.

However plaintiffs claim that the legal rights are there in theory but not in practice (an issue that came up when same-sex marriage was voted on in 2009). However New Jersey Governor Chris Christie says there’s no way he’s signing a same-sex marriage bill, so.

Rhode Island is up for a vote on its civil unions bill with the Senate Judiciary Committee approving the measure this afternoon. It will go next to the Democrat-controlled Senate floor where everyone is pretty sure it will pass.

However the provisions in the bill have drawn some criticism from gay rights activists. For starters they wish it was a same-sex MARRIAGE bill, but are willing to let that slide for the time being. But there are serious problems with a controversial house amendment that permits religious groups to refuse some of civil unionized couple’s legal rights. For example a religiously affiliated hospital could refuse a partner permission to participate in their spouse’s emergency medical care decisions.

UPDATE: From The Advocate:

With broad exemptions for religious organizations included, the Rhode Island Senate passed a civil unions bill Wednesday and sent it to the governor’s desk.

The legislation passed 21-16; the state House passed a companion bill in May, and it’s widely believed Rhode Island’s independent governor, Lincoln Chafee, will soon sign civil unions into law.

And finally — President Obama had a big day of talking to people. He had a private reception with LGBTs which probably involved tiny sandwiches and cocktails. From Bloomberg:

Obama listed accomplishments that included expanded hospital visitation rights for same-sex couples, an end to the ban on travel to the U.S. by foreign nationals infected with the virus that causes AIDS and a repeal of the policy prohibiting openly gay people from serving in the armed forces.

“I think it’s important for us to note the progress that’s been made just in the past two and a half years,” Obama said. “The bottom line is I’ve met my commitments.”

“That doesn’t mean our work is done,” he added. “I will continue to fight alongside you.”

Also, Barack Obama had a press conference today! It sounds like it was super fun and filled with lots of important information. For starters, he said:

“We’ve said that DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, is unconstitutional. We cannot defend the federal government poking its nose into what states are doing and putting the thumb on the scale against same-sex couples.”

And, re: New York and the rights of same-sex couples –

“They’ve got to be treated like every other American, and I think that principle will win out. … The president … can’t dictate precisely how this process moves. But I think we’re moving in a direction of greater equality, and I think that’s a good thing.”

However, when he was asked if he personally supports same-sex marriages, Obama answered, “I’m not going to make news on that today.”

When asked again by Wall Street Journal reporter Laura Meckler about supporting gay marriages, Obama answered:

“Laura, I think this has been asked and answered. I’ll keep on giving you the same answer until I give you a different one. And that won’t be today.”

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Riese

Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

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33 Comments

  1. NY is my hometown but RI is my current state of residence. This week’s been pretty gay.

    • I’m in RI too, born and bred. I guess it takes baby steps, that’s what I keep telling myself. Someday it will be marriage…

  2. The civil unions bill passed in Rhode Island’s Senate tonight. Ambivalent feelings are ambivalent.

  3. so what youre saying is that i need to go to Volney, New York to get married. and bring ALL OF THE HOMOS.

    because if we go en masse she has to sign. should be fun.

  4. I wish I could publicly state that I’m refusing to do my job and then still get to paid to not do it.That would be sweet.

  5. I’ll be waiting on the article where suddenly HUNDREDS of gays appear in Volney to get married.

    Because I just know it’s gonna happen.

  6. Y’know, I’m glad for all you homos living in states like New York who can get married now or in states that are at least trying to move forward, but I just can’t get too excited about it. I live in Idaho. As long as Obama and the feds are firm on that “states rights” bullshit with regards to gay marriage, gay marriage is as likely to happen for me as powering my house using cold fusion.

    • Im in West Virginia so I feel you there, I am quite sure my state will never legalize same-sex marriage so I am depending on a federal bill to eventually give us all the same rights.

    • I know what you mean. I live in what east-coasters might call a fly-over state where there’s a Constitutional ban on gay marriage that passed by an overwhelming majority. So… I’m pretty pessimistic about the future unless some federal legislation gets going.

      Clearly, marriage equality in NY is a huge deal and I’m very excited about it. It’s just that… I feel like since a lot of people who work in the media live in New York or California, those places get a lot more attention. Just as an example: Prop 8 has come to symbolize the gay marriage struggle for a lot of people (i.e. NOH8 ads) even though many other states have had similar Constitutional bans (if not quite as unique w/ regard to the whole taking marriage away thing). No one can deny that there’s a coastal bias in the media, which is one of the reasons that I appreciate the ways in which AS covers civil rights battles in a geographically diverse way. I hope that New Yorkers work to help the rest of us after they enjoy a well-earned celebration.

    • In the same vein of thought, I live in Texas now but when I have a degree and it’s time to pick where I’m gonna live and have my career, I know that gay-friendliness (or lack thereof) will definitely be a factor in my decision. Lord knows I don’t want to live in Southernbaptistville the rest of my life. That’s part of why I join in celebrating these states that pass gay rights legislation: I get more options about where to live in future!

    • If it’s any consolation, I think California’s getting gay marriage around the same time as genetically engineered unicorns go on the market.

    • I’m in the same boat, I’m in Florida and it is a never ending cycle of politicians ranting bullshit about same-sex marriage. My only choice it seems would be to move somewhere else, because Florida is not changing its red state ways anytime soon.

    • As a former Idahoan and Texan, I feel your pain; however, I wouldn’t hold my breath for federal legislation on marriage equality. Just as DOMA is unconstitutional, so would similar legislation by Congress legalizing same-sex marriage on a national level. It’s simply an issue for the states, not Congress (which is why I’m still baffled how the sneaky bastards rationalized DOMA in the first place).

      But fear not red state denizens, because we do have a Supreme Court that could, given the right judges, find state laws/amendments restricting marriage to man + woman, unconstitutional–a la Lawrence v. Texas. This is where I’d place my bets on relief, because god knows we’d wait until the next millennia for Idaho or Texas to come around.

  7. I choose to think Obama is just biding his time til he can spring “marriage for errbody!” on congress, aka sometime after his potential re-election. And I’m okay with that for now.

    • Maybe it’s just the hopeless optimist in me, but I just can’t help holding out for this too. I don’t know. It’s still a very dangerous political move (and it’s STUPID that it is DAMMIT) and the LGBT community with close ties to the president haven’t really been putting strong pressure on him (you won’t pass bills? we’ll still give you standing ovations at our fancy dinners!). So maybe he’s plotting for the long term. He’s shown himself to be very wily like that in the past.

      BUT BASICALLY I am saying this today because these quotes seriously cracked me up: “However, when he was asked if he personally supports same-sex marriages, Obama answered, “I’m not going to make news on that today…I’ll keep on giving you the same answer until I give you a different one. And that won’t be today.”

      I just can’t help imagining he’s saying this while winking cartoonishly. Like, “I’m not going to make news on that TODAY, you guys…it’ll be the same answer until I give you a DIFFERENT one, dig? Guys?” That is some serious zen avoidance shit, Obama! I can’t help but laugh over how absurd this all is. Either that or cry.

      • Yes, all of this, especially that last paragraph. It would be political suicide to tackle health care and homocare in the same term.

        If he gets re-elected, I think we’ll find out if he has homo plans early on in his second term. The best thing would be to do something drastic in the first year so the country has three years to settle down and get used to it. If he did it in like, the third year of his second term, the backlash would still be hardcore during the next election and that shit would almost definitely get overturned.

  8. I am from NJ and have been planning my “civil union” for the past year. The date is set for October and I couldn’t be more disappointed in my state. Although it’s the governor that won’t let marriage pass. I think the state as a whole would. I just hope one of these days I can actually be married!

  9. I AM HAVING A THOUGHT PREPARE YOURSELVES

    Could it be a good thing that Obama won’t make gay marriage happen federally?

    The debate over marriage has put GLB folks in the public discourse in a much bigger, more far-reaching way than anything else has. The major significance of the debate has less to do with homomarriage per se, I think, and more to do with visibility. I’m not convinced we’d be so widely recognized as real live human people with real live human people issues without inclusion in the mainstream discourse, and that recognition is creating a platform upon which we can and do rally for more critical rights (healthcare, anti-discrimination laws, etc) and fairer treatment (see the anti-bullying campaign, launched because babyqueers are hurting, see also It Gets Better (more positive visibility?)).

    If we win marriage in every state, would we be able to wiggle our way into the mainstream discourse again? Would the whole country really start talking about, say, homeless GLBT youth? The fact that it’s legal to fire someone based on their queerness in 29 states? I don’t think these issues are as palatable or as relatable as the marriage issue, and I wonder if we need to get people riled up with an easy-to-care-about issue before we can introduce them to the tougher stuff?

    I know leaving it up to the states means that many of us won’t see marriage equality any time soon, but does it also mean that we get to keep building this incredible visibility and recruiting super opinionated allies?

    I DON’T KNOW it’s just a thought I had. What do you think?

    • No, just kidding, that’s stupid. The civil rights movement only worked when laws preceded majority acceptance. Acceptance came after the laws prohibited asshat behavior and people took the absence of asshat behavior to mean that the American ethic was pro-equality (w/r/t very specific black and lady rights) and it was un-American to be otherwise.

      So we pretty much need pro-gay laws ASAP. FFFFfff.

      • also, remember when we decided to leave the slavery issue to the states and it worked out awesome and everyone was happy and no one died at all for 4 whole years?

        • Yeah, federal freedom for states to be bigoted assholes. I’m trying not to cling too tightly to “lessons learned from history” because that almost never works (now that hitler happened we’ll never have genocide again except for that all the ones that are going on right at this moment!!!!! SUP SUDAN), but sometimes it does (civil rights taught us that if we pass laws, attitudes will follow). Things are complicated.

          You make a good point though probably I don’t know we’ll find out!

      • It’s kind of crazy because it sounds apologist (“no it’s a good thing that the government hates us, you guys! really! calm down!”), but I personally use marriage as a jumping off point in classrooms (both as a student and as an educator) for discussing more pressing issues, so I wonder if that’s happening on the macro level, too? SOMEONE LOOK INTO THIS

  10. Yes Obama don`t make a statement now when young gays are killing themselves left and right.It would be much better to wait until the political climate is a bit safer or better yet once relected.Way to show leadership Barack.

  11. Obama’s silence at this point is probably helpful. We haven’t even gotten all the ‘dyed in blue’ states yet but when we have, we’ll be left with States where we can’t win without Republicans. Obama’s ‘coming out’ might make it harder to get that Republican support. It might be the difference between electing socially liberal Republicans over Tea Party whack jobs.

    The Constitution doesn’t mention marriage. Marriage is, by definition, an issue for the States. That’s also a good thing. It let us in CT follow our own path. If it were a Federal issue, we might not have marriage equality here.

    What is a Federal issue is equal protection. What was lost in the chatter about NY is that all New Yorkers could be married in NY, they just couldn’t get married in New York. Gov. Patterson did that by executive order. That took some of the wind out of Republican sails. The only real difference in NY, pre and post, was all the money flowing out of NY into VT, MA and CT. Marriage equality came to NY because marriage equality already existed in NY.

    Getting DOMA ruled unconstitutional is the critical step in replaying that scenario. A married couple’s loss of rights when they visit another part of the country can bring marriage equality to everyone but not while DOMA is in place. At this point, that’s the thing Obama should be working on and it looks like he is.

    DOMA, by itself, might be Constitutional. It doesn’t remove the States’ power over marriage. It does prevent one State from imposing it’s will on another State. The Constitutional problem with DOMA is that it creates an unequal America. That always takes time to fix but it gets fixed eventually. Someday, residents of DC will no longer be taxed without representation.

    Idaho presents an interesting problem. Here on the East Coast, the ‘slippery slope’ argument seemed silly. Not many people here want to marry their dog or a lamp or more than one person. But in Idaho, the convergence of religious freedom and marriage equality does legitimately raise the polygamy issue. Once you apply the Establishment Clause to marriage, what’s the rationale for denying Mormons the right to practice their religion?

    Idaho will have marriage equality, probably sooner than any of us thinks possible. After we win Oregon or Washington, some woman will be denied the right to make an emergency medical decision for her wife in an Idaho hospital, some couple from NY will try to get divorced in Idaho, a probate or housing court will rule that the rights granted by a marriage in another State apply.

    That might happen in NJ or Illinois and not Idaho but it will happen…once DOMA is gone. Some State will be forced to recognize a marriage performed in another State. You may never be able to get married in Idaho but you will be able to be married in Idaho.

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