Monday, October 19, 2009

Powerful editorial for marriage in Albany Times Union

Today the Times Union in Albany called on the State Senate to stop delaying and vote on marriage immediately. The powerful editorial is below.

Time to take the plunge

It is time for Democrats to show that they were deserving of the trust placed in them last year when voters gave them control of the chamber. They must recognize that with power comes not only privilege, but the responsibility to use it. That means, among many other things, acting on one of their party's clearest planks and following through on an implicit promise to pass a gay marriage bill. Or, at the very least, to bring it to the floor for a vote.

Instead, what we see is "inactivity," the word that repeatedly came up last week as the state's top judges heard two cases over whether state and local governments could recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

That inaction has left it to politicians, government agencies, gay marriage opponents and gay and lesbian couples to fight this battle on the fringes. In the two cases before the court, the judges are deciding whether Westchester County and the state Department of Civil Service rightly or wrongly recognized same-sex marriages from neighboring states and Canada in providing couples with health benefits.

On one side is the Alliance Defense Fund, a self-proclaimed defender of religious liberty and what this group from Arizona declares to be the interests of New York taxpayers.

On the other is what New Yorkers are really about: equality and tolerance, and the real meaning of religious liberty. Last we read, it was the right to live in a nation where "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Implicit in that is not having religious views concerning marriage imposed on citizens by those like the Alliance Defense Fund.

As for the interests of New York taxpayers, the lawmakers who were elected to represent their interests could save some small measure of public funds by not leaving it to other governments and the courts to be their proxy on this issue.

The Democrat-led Assembly earlier this year passed a bill to legalize same-sex marriage. Democratic Gov. David Paterson is ready to sign it. Only Senate Democrats, insistent on trying to first finesse this behind the scenes rather that put this bill on the floor and make every lawmaker stand up and be counted, are holding it up.

Enough. Senate Democrats should put this bill on the agenda when the Legislature next returns to Albany and let it win or lose in a fair, open fight.

It is time to bring clarity to this issue and stop leaving it to the courts to have to express the will of New Yorkers every time some right-wing group tries to challenge this state's progressive traditions.

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