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Saturday, February 2, 2008

New York State recognizes, but won’t perform, gay marriage

Posted By on Sat, Feb 2, 2008 at 11:15 AM

by Benjamin Wachs

Gays can’t get married in New York – but they can stay married there.

In a landmark ruling that’s getting strangely little play across the country, New York’s second highest court yesterday announced that … yeah … gay marriages really do happen.

The unanimous ruling, which was sought by a lesbian couple from Rochester, NY, does not require that New York allow gay marriage to occur on local soil. But it does require the state to accept gay unions performed elsewhere – like Canada, where plaintiffs Patricia Martinez and spouse Lisa Ann Golden were married in 2004.

The ruling has been called “historic” – but is getting strangely little attention in the national press. The Chron doesn’t seem to have it at all, the New York Times is burying it in its “New York” section, and even Google News returned virtually no relevant hits.

But it happened, all the same.

So have gay marriages finally rounded the American corner? Not necessarily. The two big questions are:

1) Will the legislature pass a law invalidating this ruling?

2) Will the county appeal?

The answer to 1 is ...


With a Democratic governor who’s desperate to mend fences with his base and a Democratic assembly that’s heavily New York City-centric, there’s no way an anti-gay marriage bill is making its way through Albany.

But 2 is a much more difficult question. Monroe County is run by Republicans but has more registered Democrats. The administration is conservative, but has absolutely no appetite for divisive social issues: they don’t demagogue about abortion, prayer in schools, or gay rights because they know those are losing issues for them. Republicans control the county legislature by just one vote – the last thing they want to do is give Democrats a serious issue in a big election year.

On the other hand, there is a conservative base that votes and they’ll want to keep that.

Rochester has a tradition of strong civil rights activism: the home of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, it could now make the next beachhead for gay rights in America. This is a nail biter that the national media doesn’t seem to have picked up yet – but keep reading SF Weekly. I’ve got your back.

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Benjamin Wachs


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