Thursday, February 12, 2009

GayCityNews - Denied A License Once Again

We had an enthusiastic crowd this morning

GayCityNews - Denied A License Once Again


Barbara Josso and Liz Milosvia, a couple for 30 years, want to turn their New Jersey civil union in for a New York marriage.
On Lincoln's 200th Birthday, Equality Advocates Head to New York City's Marriage Bureau

When Reed Davis and Fred Anguera visited the brand new city Marriage Bureau in Lower Manhattan to apply for a license, they were turned away, but by a civil servant who assured them that she "understood our cause."

"She was courteous about it and kind and she explained that the state doesn't offer marriage licenses, but there are domestic partnerships, 'if you're interested in that,'" Davis said. "We said we were interested in getting all the rights of marriage. But it wasn't painful."

Davis and Anguera, a couple who live in Astoria and have been together seven months, were among about 100 people, many of them couples, who joined the annual action sponsored by Marriage Equality New York (MENY), a grassroots activist group.

The marriage advocates gathered at 8 a.m. on February 12, and for 90 minutes staged a lively picket -- holding signs and red heart Valentine's balloons on the steps of 141 Worth Street and a giant banner reading "New York Loves Gay Marriage" across the street.

The action is typically held on Valentine's Day, but since February 14 falls on a Saturday this year, it was moved to February 12, which is the 200th birthday of the Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln.

Davis and Anguera were also among more than 125 who traveled to Albany on February 3 as part of MENY's Marriage Equality Day, a lobbying effort that this year targeted the State Senate, which has yet to act on the gay marriage bill passed by the Assembly in 2007. According to Cathy Marino-Thomas, the group's communications director, the advocates met with 30 senators, including about a dozen Republicans, in the 62-member Senate.

With 32 votes needed to pass the bill, the most recent count from the Empire State Pride Agenda (ESPA), the state's LGBT rights lobby, posted on its website last fall, put the number of senators publicly supporting the bill in the low 20s.

Marino-Thomas expressed optimism that public expressions of support likely underestimate the number of votes the marriage bill would get if it came to the Senate floor. Speaking of MENY's meetings with Republicans, she said, "I think that coming out in public in favor of us is a problem and we're working with them on that, but I think if asked to vote they would vote in our favor. I think that they're starting to understand the difference between civil marriage and religious marriage, and they're starting to understand the rights we don't have. It's an education process."

Davis and Anguera met with their senator, George Onorato, a conservative Democrat who represents the 12th District in Queens, which includes Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside, and part of Woodside.

"It went pretty good," Anguera said of the meeting. "He's going to need a little more coercing. What really raised his eyebrows, literally, were the straight allies in front of him; otherwise it would have been just a bunch of gay people complaining."

Anguera is MENY's organizer for Onorato's district.

Other marriage advocates who were upbeat about the prospects for a marriage equality bill in New York State were Barbara Josso and Liz Milosvia, an Upper West Side couple who have been together nearly 30 years.

"We're cautiously optimistic," Josso said. "We have more friends than we ever had in Albany. I think Governor Paterson is a big supporter of what we want. We're just hoping that people realize that we're really trying to get our civil rights; we're not looking for the religious sanction."

Josso and Milosvia recently entered into a civil union in New Jersey. Asked why they chose that course rather than getting married in Connecticut, a union that would be recognized by New York State, Josso explained that they own a weekend home in New Jersey and are concerned about protecting their property for each other and for their 31-year-old daughter.

Asked about Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith's comments at the February 7 Human Rights Campaign dinner in New York that the votes are not yet there to pass the bill, MENY's Marino-Thomas responded, "I think he's being cautious, but I don't think that knocks us out of the box" for the 2009-2010 session of the Legislature.

Michael Sabatino and Robert Voorheis are a married couple in Westchester County who have long been active with MENY. When the anti-gay Alliance Defense Fund brought a lawsuit challenging Westchester County Executive Andrew J. Spano's 2006 order that legal same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions be recognized there, the couple was allowed to "intervene" as interested parties in the proceedings. ADF's lawsuit was thrown out on December 30 of last year.

On hand at the Marriage Bureau, Sabatino voiced satisfaction that MENY had allies at the event, including ESPA, the New York Civil Liberties Union, and Join the Impact, a new nationwide direct action group formed in the wake of Proposition 8's passage in California.

"There are a lot of young people here today," Sabatino said. "We need a new generation of leaders."

Keith Tucker is a 23-year-old gay man who moved to Queens from Owensboro, Kentucky, last October, and a month later was one of five activists who organized a massive anti-Prop 8 demonstration at City Hall.

Asked how his group differs from MENY, Tucker said, "Street action." He also explained that Join the Impact's mission is broader than marriage equality, and encompasses hate crimes and transgender rights, among other issues, even if marriage is "the hot button issue right now."

He said the group is currently working with MENY and ESPA in planning an action on April 15, Tax Day. Though plans are not yet finalized, Tucker said activists might dress up in Revolutionary War gear to emphasize the theme of "taxation without representation."

Throughout the week of February 8-14, Freedom to Marry, a group that coordinates equality advocacy nationwide among gay activists and their straight allies, has encouraged a variety of actions individuals can take to advance the cause.

The group's website lays out a range of options -- from creating YouTube videos to having face-to-face conversations to writing letters to the editor at local newspapers -- for marriage equality advocates to engage the larger community on the issue.

Evan Wolfson, Freedom to Marry's founder and executive director, marked February 12 with a provocative essay on Huffington Post exploring how Lincoln's independent thinking and empathetic nature might have influenced his reaction to the marriage equality debate.

Wolfson noted that the 16th president, in 1829, 31 years before his election to the presidency, wrote a poem that was "perhaps the most explicit literary reference to actual homosexual relations in 19th century America."

©GayCityNews 2009


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