Much news to cover this week concerning same-sex marriage on opposite coasts. First up, wedding bells will ring for gay and lesbian couples in California starting June 17, the first day marriage licenses can be issued.
That day was decided upon by the state’s Office of Vital Records, in order to allow the state Supreme Court the maximum time to consider any challenge to its ruling before it takes effect, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.
The Office of Vital Records also announced how the new marriage forms will be worded — the forms refer to applicants simply as “Party A” and “Party B.”
And here’s more good news in California: The statewide Field Poll that has been conducted in that state for 30 years found, for the first time ever, a majority of voters support same-sex marriage. The majority was slim — only 51 percent — but it’s still a big step. Back in 1977, when the Field Poll first asked the question, only 28 percent favored same-sex marriage.
“This is a milestone in California,” Mark DiCamillo, the poll’s director, told the Chronicle. “You can’t downplay the importance of a change in an issue we’ve been tracking for 30 years.”
View the full poll (PDF), which breaks down responses by age, region, party, political ideology and religion.
New York, meanwhile, is poised to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. Gov. David A. Patterson acted on a directive issued by legal counsel May 14, which notified state agencies that gay couples married elsewhere “should be afforded the same recognition as any other legally performed union.”
Jeremy W. Peters writes in The New York Times:
The directive cited a Feb. 1 ruling by a State Appellate Court in Rochester that Patricia Martinez, who works at Monroe Community College and who married her partner in Canada, could not be denied health benefits by the college because of New York’s longstanding policy of recognizing marriages performed elsewhere, even if they are not explicitly allowed under New York law. The appeals court said that New York must recognize marriages performed in other states that allow the practice and in countries that permit it, like Canada and Spain.
Monroe County filed an appeal with the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, but it was rejected on technical grounds. The county has not decided whether to file another appeal, a county spokesman said on Wednesday. The Court of Appeals has previously ruled that the state’s Constitution did not compel the recognition of same-sex marriages and that it was up to the Legislature to decide whether do so.
Groups that oppose gay marriage said the governor was essentially trying to circumvent the Legislature.
“It’s a perfect example of a governor overstepping his authority and sidestepping the democratic process,” said Brian Raum, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, a national organization opposed to same-sex marriage. “It’s an issue of public policy that should be decided by the voters.”
Gay rights advocates, however, applauded Mr. Paterson, saying the broad directive would make it clear that gay couples wed in other states were entitled to all of the benefits of marriage in New York and relieve them of the burden of challenging or suing individual agencies.
The majority leader of the State Senate, Republican Joe Bruno, told the Times on Thursday “that he and his staff would look at whether the governor had violated the checks and balances that stand between the executive and the legislative branches. But he stopped short of saying that Mr. Paterson, a Democrat, had overstepped his authority. ‘There’s a constitutional question here,’ Mr. Bruno added.”
State agencies are going to have to revise “as many as 1,300 statutes and regulations in New York governing everything from joint filing of income tax returns to transferring fishing licenses between spouses,” according to the Times.
Some gay New Yorkers may be packing their bags for California next month — or Canada. While marriages performed in Massachusetts would be recognized in New York, Massachusetts doesn’t allow same-sex couples to marry there if their home state prohibits same-sex unions. For New Yorkers, that might just be a matter of time — if the Republican-controlled Senate quits stalling.
Advocates of same-sex marriage were quick to note the irony of New York’s position.
“If you’re going to treat us as equals, why don’t you just give us the marriage license?” said Alan Van Capelle, executive director of Empire State Pride Agenda. “So this is a temporary but necessary fix for a longer-term problem, which is marriage equality in New York State.”