Marriage in New York State
December 23, 2005
To the Editor:
Your editorial column in the December 15-21 edition of Gay City News (“Urgent Next Steps on Marriage,” by Paul Schindler) was on the mark concerning next steps on same sex marriage but it left out some crucial information—the chairs of the State Senate and State Assembly Judiciary Committees where hearings would have to originate. In the Republican-controlled Senate, it’s John DeFrancisco from Syracuse, and in the Assembly, it’s Helene Weinstein from Brooklyn. Weinstein’s district office number is 718-648-4700; DeFrancisco’s Albany office number is 518-455-3511.
In most states, legislation begins with hearings where opponents and proponents testify and legislators ask questions and form opinions. In New York, unfortunately, it doesn’t usually work that way. Maybe we can help change that. I suggest readers begin calling and writing the Committee chairs and asking when they plan to schedule hearings. It’s particularly appalling that marriage supporters cannot get a hearing in the Assembly. It’s time for opponents and proponents to be heard and the public debate to begin in New York.
The Wider Marriage Debate
January 2, 2006
To the Editor:
The recent letter from David Thorstad (“Queers and Marriage,” Letters to the Editor, Dec. 29-Jan. 4) and Emmaia Gelman’s article (“Rebuilding Queer Community, Beyond Marriage,”Dec.1-7), both denouncing the movement for same-sex marriage, represent a narrow and woefully inaccurate point of view. Both begin by charging the national queer organizations with using the power of money to undemocratically force this issue down the community’s throat. Where do they think this money came from? Most of it came in the form of small contributions sent in by us queers and our sympathizers all over the country. Each of these contributions is a vote that sends a clear message of support.
Contrary to Thorstad’s contentions, same-sex marriage is not a movement designed to disadvantage singles or to distance the queer community from its more radical elements. In response both to him and to right-wing Christians screaming that we are destroying “traditional” marriage, I say the same thing—gay marriage takes nothing away from anyone, not from queer singles and not from straight married persons. Those who do not wish to marry need not. Their legal position remains unchanged.
Thorstad goes on at some length criticizing the marriage movement for taking attention away from other issues—ones he considers more important. No one denies there are other issues, but the world is not to be perfected in one fell swoop. Ever since Stonewall, we have been gradually working to make the world safe and equal for queers, one step at a time. Same-sex marriage is one more step, a vital one in securing the well-being of those we love. Anyone who has been shut out of a hospital emergency room or intensive care unit while a partner lies dying on the other side of the door because the partner is not “legal family” knows the speciousness of Thorstad’s dismissal of marriage’s importance. In a separate e-mail to me personally, he says this sort of situation can be handled by “contracts or other means.” I can assure you from my own experience that a hospital emergency room is not the place to have a discussion with officials about the validity of paperwork. A tried, true, and universally accepted formula already exists for such situations—that being, “I’m married to the patient, now get out of my way.”
Thorstad claims the “marriage crusade has proceeded without any democratic debate in the media.” That this is untrue is evidenced by the present exchange. Perhaps a lack of dissenting opinion in the press is an indication of the queer community’s true feelings. As senior editor of Out in Jersey magazine, one of the largest gay regionals in the country, I can state categorically that we have not received so much as a single letter or submission of any sort opposed to same-sex marriage.
In a manner both offensive and either blind or simply uninformed, Thorstad tries to make the case that gays don’t belong in marriage because we aren’t naturally monogamous. Again we are left to assume that he may be reasoning from the particular (himself) to the general. My own relationship has been monogamous for the entire decade it has existed. The same is true of most of my friends. This, however, is not the point. The point is the availability of options. No one suggests that Thorstad be forced into a monogamous relationship.
Thorstad makes the wholly inaccurate claim that this is a mostly white, middle class movement. He really should have done some homework here and attended town meetings over the past several years in New Jersey about domestic partnership and gay marriage. All classes and colors were well represented. The first gay church wedding I ever attended took place at Unity Fellowship Church in Brooklyn. Before saying this is a white movement, Thorstad and Gelman should interview members of the Unity Fellowship denomination—or just have a chat with my own partner, who is black. I can guarantee they would get an ear-full.
Pardon me for sullying the pure waters of egalitarian philosophy with mundane concerns but they are indeed the concerns that ordinary people living in the real world have to worry about.
December 30, 2005
To the Editor:
A jolly gay New Year to all the readers of Gay City News.
I enjoyed the discussion of same-sex marriage in your pages including the Jesus Lebron op-ed (“The Grassroots Demand Marriage,” Dec. 8-14) and David Thorstad’s letter in response to Emmaia Gelman’s opinion piece.
Thorstad’s letter to Gay City News makes some very valid and important points. I remember quite well the years back when it was assumed you would be a life-long single if you were “homosexual.” Even today, the drive for same-sex marriage probably ignores the vast majority of gays and lesbians who do and will spend the vast majority of their adult lives single.
Thorstad makes a partial historical error, however, when he says, “This crusade results from a top-down, undemocratic, elitist process, whereby a few national groups—the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal and others—foisted the issue on the country.”
Historically, those groups dragged their feet on gay marriage, but in turn were dragged there themselves by their supporters. A piece I wrote on April 4, 2004 in Pulse Twin Cities, a socialist-oriented publication out of Minneapolis available at pulsetc.com, “Gay Marriage: The Early Years,” explores the way in which gay marriage was ignored for decades by the accommodationalist gay rights movement that had emerged by the mid-1970s.
December 30, 2005
To the Editor:
In response to David Thorstad’s letter in last week’s Gay City News, I say, “Thanks for saying the obvious.” Don Slater, the co-founder in 1952 of ONE, the nation’s first openly distributed homosexual publication that grew up out of dissatisfaction with the pace of Mattachine Society efforts in Los Angeles, would be saying it too.
Don was a conservative, which I gather Thorstad is not. But my point is that some of the pioneers did not push marriage, although ONE magazine, as recounted in the current issue of the Gay & Lesbian Review, thought about it and its possible consequences, good and bad.
The only “issue” I have with Thorstad is that, as some others have said, it does seem that it was from the grassroots that this issue came forth. In a sense, except for Lambda Legal, the “leaders” had to jump on a moving train. And the logical attitude is one we’ve had since the movement began in the ‘50s. If you have an aspect of homosexuality you want to put forward, do it.
When ONE was the only organization and publication, we tried to accommodate all views. Now you have publications and organizations aimed at all aspects, and I say that is great. We have to know that among us there are those pushing religion and others opposing religion. Some of us are lazy and others join Frontrunner clubs. Some even find that you can be gay and Republican as well as Democrat, so talk about diversity!