Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy calls on the Senate to pass the marriage bill

In an eloquent op-ed in this past Sunday's Democrat & Chronicle (Rochester's biggest paper), Mayor Robert Duffy articulates why he supports marriage equality and explains why the State Senate should act to pass the bill immediately.

The op-ed is an enlightened contrast to the backwards editorial that the paper released the Sunday before, which argued that civil unions are enough for same-sex couples. Apparently, the editorial board had a heated argument about the issue before deciding to write the piece that they ran. Unfortunately, they got it completely wrong.

Mayor Duffy, on the other hand, demonstrates why he is so popular among his constituents. He is a true leader, and recognizes the need to strike down injustice where it exists in our laws. His entire op-ed is below:

Gay New Yorkers deserve right to marry

May 24, 2009

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
Martin Luther King Jr.

The state Assembly recently passed a bill that provides same-sex couples the same opportunity to enter into civil marriages as opposite-sex couples. The state Senate will now take up the measure, and I am urging its passage.

While I have no say in this vote, this is not the time to hide our opinions and our positions.

I was raised in a deeply religious family. In fact, my mother was actually a Catholic nun for a time. I am well aware of the Church's teachings. I hold my faith and the Bible dear. But I also cherish our Constitution. To me, this is not about my faith in God. It is about equal rights for all.
As police chief and now as mayor, I have spent my career upholding our Constitution to ensure all citizens are not denied their rights because of who they are.

In my mind, sexual preference is not a choice or one's decision. I believe it is inherently part of our being. The right to marry is a fundamental human right that is being denied to an entire class of people solely because of who they are. It's not fair, it's not right and it's not American.
This is not about religion. The legislation provides that no member of the clergy may be compelled to perform any marriage ceremony. I frequently meet with the faith community and the pastors I speak with know my heart on this matter. I wholeheartedly respect their beliefs and opinions and I ask that they respect mine as well.

Opponents argue that we must defend marriage. This law does exactly that. The breakdown of our families and the lack of committed relationships is a destructive force on society. Let's take the passion we have about the politics of the law and focus it on encouraging more marriage and civil unions for all our citizens.

The gay and lesbian community in our city and state are some of our most brilliant, entrepreneurial and successful citizens. Who are these people? They are our family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers and taxpayers who represent every corner of our community.

Can New York state afford to lose these outstanding citizens? If I was being denied a basic civil right in our state, I would go to another place where I would be valued and welcomed.
This community is the home of two giants in the fight for social justice. Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony dedicated their lives to battle for people who were denied basic human rights based on their race and gender.

We look back on that time and wonder why the fight was so long and so hard for what seems an obvious fact — freedom, voting and equality are not limited to a few, but to all. Future generations will look back on this vote in the same manner. The right for two people to marry in a civil ceremony is fundamental and American.

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