New York votes to legalize same-sex marriage
Gay marriage, which will be legal in six states and Washington, D.C., is not legal in Pa.
July 7, 2011, 4:19 am · Updated July 11, 2011, 12:00 am·
With gay marriage now legal in New York, some are wondering whether Pennsylvania will follow suit.
In a 33-to-29 vote, the New York State Senate passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage on June 24. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed it into law, and it will go into effect on July 25.
With the addition of New York to the list of states that have legalized same-sex marriage — following Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, as well as the District of Columbia — the number of people living in a state that allows the practice has doubled from around 15 million to about 30 million, said Scott Davenport, 1979 Wharton graduate and managing director of Freedom to Marry, a non-profit that campaigns for same-sex marriage.
The New York senators’ decision was reinforced by the ongoing conversation throughout the state that same-sex marriage “helps loving, committed couples marry and doesn’t hurt anyone,” Davenport said. “As more and more couples marry, more and more people realize that, in fact, when same-sex couples marry the sky doesn’t fall.”
Despite the vote in New York, Bob Schoenberg, director of Penn’s LGBT Center, said he was “not optimistic for some states” to make the same decision.
In Pennsylvania, where the previous election “brought a large amount of conservatives into the PA state legislature,” it is unlikely that a vote of a similar nature will occur in the near future, College senior Corinne Rich, chair of the Lambda Alliance — Penn’s umbrella organization for LGBT groups — wrote in an email.
Such roadblocks for full marriage equality signify that “the fight is far from over, and that there is still a long way to go before same-sex marriage is legal nationwide,” Rich wrote. Of the 44 states that do not allow same-sex marriage, “many do not perform civil unions, or even recognize same-sex partnerships from other states.”
In Pennsylvania, no forms of same-sex marriage or civil unions are recognized, although a Public Policy Polling survey in April found that 63 percent of voters in Pennsylvania support legal recognition of same-sex couples.
A 2006 amendment to Pennsylvania’s state constitution that sought to define marriage as strictly between a man and a woman was defeated in the Senate. Another amendment proposed in 2009 was also tabled.
However, Rich added that “New York has always been a trend setter, in many ways, and hopefully this will be a ‘trend’ that catches on elsewhere.”
The people who will be responsible for spreading that trend, Davenport said, are those who have been legally married in the seven permitted areas. “They won’t all stay here in New York or the other states,” he said. “When they go to those areas where same-sex marriage is not permitted, their marriages should be respected too.”
As more same-sex couples make their presence known in the United States, “discrimination encountered at the federal level becomes more real and can’t be ignored,” Davenport said.
Some people remain staunchly opposed to gay marriage.
Diane Gramley, President of the American Family Association of Pennsylvania, derided New York’s decision to legalize gay marriage.
“It was wrong,” she wrote in an email. “I do not believe a similar decision is going to be made in PA because Governor [Tom] Corbett and the majority in the State House and State Senate support natural one man, one woman marriage.”
One of the goals of the AFA, a non-profit that promotes conservative Christian values, is to protect the traditional definition of marriage.
“The legalization of same-sex marriage is simply redefining and further undermining real marriage,” Gramley wrote. “Mothers and fathers play unique roles in raising children and ‘two mommies’ or ‘two daddies’ cannot fulfill the needs of a growing child … If same-sex marriage is legalized, it will be taught to school children as being normal and natural, further confusing children.”
But Freedom to Marry will continue to work to get more states to legalize same-sex marriage and eventually work toward the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act — the 1996 federal law defining marriage as between a man and a woman, Schoenberg said.
While it will be a long process, according to Davenport, with the continued discussion of marriage equality, “we think that minds are changed, hearts are changed and people evolve.”