Mr. Robles is the person to see in Manhattan if you need a marriage license. Except his office hasn’t been putting out for our community.
Appointed by the City Council to a six-year term, Victor Robles, Clerk of the City of New York, has the kind of job you dream about: he has no boss, and he can’t really be fired. According to the City Charter, the Council has no power to tell him what to do. Neither does the mayor. Mr. Robles knows this. Here’s a quote from the document his office gave all the gay and lesbian couples who applied for marriage licenses at his office last Thursday:
“Nothing in law authorizes the City Council or the Mayor to direct the City Clerk in the performance of his or her duties under the Domestic Relations Law.”
For all his troubles, he collects $153,239 annually. Jobs don’t get much better than this.
Presumably, no one can tell him what not to do, either. So no one knows why Mr. Robles, a Democrat, won’t let us get married. Some say it’s a devotion to the mayor—a heteropolitical marriage, if you will. Some say it’s his close ties to the man who appointed him: former Council Speaker Peter Vallone, who just can’t stand it when the lesbian and gay community makes any progress. Others say it is Robles’ devout Catholicism. Still others say it’s the persistence of those nagging rumors that resulted from a 1996 Daily News story about complaints of sexual harassment from a male employee––which never resulted in any legal action.
Frankly, I don’t much care. The same-sex marriage train is a-coming to New York City. My evidence? There were 1,000 angry demonstrators down at City Hall last Thursday. In the rain. At eight in the morning. On five days notice. That equals one march on Washington. And then there’s Lambda Legal’s new lawsuit against Robles. And all those same-sex marriages coming home from Massachusetts starting in May: they’ll be legal here in New York State––even Attorney General Eliot Spitzer’s otherwise cautious opinion says so.
Victor Robles should get on board that train. He should stand up for what he knows is right, and begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples immediately. It’s a win-win situation. We get married. He goes into the pantheon of heroes of the civil rights movement, along with Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco, and Mayor Jason West of New Paltz.
Despite all his strutting around Albany, Attorney General Spitzer’s recent prohibition against issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples is merely an opinion. As much as he wants to be governor, Spitzer still doesn’t get to make laws by fiat, a fact that went over the heads of most journalists who reported the story. Just because Spitzer said “don’t,” doesn’t mean anyone has to pay any attention. New York’s marriage laws are gender-neutral, and our Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause covers same-sex couples. Robles knows this.
Mr. Robles also knows that despite all the threats, issuing a marriage license won’t get him in a lick of trouble. That’s because Manhattan’s district attorney, Robert Morgenthau, has promised not to press charges against him if he chooses to do so, despite Spitzer’s politicking. So Robles is really out of excuses.
We all saw how fast Mike Bloomberg freaked out after our demonstration. On Thursday morning, he was the (ever-unconvincing) tough-talking Republican, refusing to let his personal opinion be known, telling the queers to get out of his hair and stop embarrassing him in front of his Republican National Committee pals, exiling us to Albany if we wanted to affect serious change. (Apparently he’s too politically impotent to do anything himself).
But that very night, he was mewling to the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association about how, in truth, he really supported our issue, really believed in our right to get married, and would work to get the state laws changed. Then he denied he’d said it. Then his press secretary found out it had been taped, and copped to it. Then he denied it again. Then he moderated the statement. Such an ugly little spectacle.
Eventually, they’re going to get tired of asking. Soon they might decide to sit there and wait until you give them one. They might need to be escorted out. They might go limp and have to be carried out. If arrested, some might refuse to cooperate with the whole oppressive system and fill the jails. Adam and Steve Doe. Sally and Eve Roe. Members of the clergy in this city are already talking about refusing to perform weddings for anyone until gay and lesbian couples can get legally married, too. You can stop it all now, Victor Robles.
Let us get married.
To apply for a marriage license in, visit Victor Robles’ office at the Municipal Building, 1 Centre Street, 2nd floor just across the street from City Hall in Manhattan. For locations in boroughs outside Manhattan, visit www.marriagelicensebureau.com.
Andrew Miller, the former news editor of Outweek magazine, helped organized NYMarriageNOW.org and the demonstration at City Hall last Thursday.