Thursday, May 29, 2008

One Small Step

New York Gov. David Paterson has instructed state agencies to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.

In a directive issued on May 14, the governor’s legal counsel, David Nocenti, instructed the agencies that gay couples married elsewhere “should be afforded the same recognition as any other legally performed union.”

The revisions are most likely to involve 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.

In a videotaped message given to gay community leaders at a dinner on May 17, Mr. Paterson described the move as “a strong step toward marriage equality.” And people on both sides of the issue said it moved the state closer to fully legalizing same-sex unions in this state.

This is the way that same-sex marriage will become the law of the land: not by some landmark legal decision handed down by the Supreme Court, but in incremental and manageable steps like this, city by city, state by state. It’s less dramatic and it takes longer, but it also makes it harder for the opponents of equality for the gay and lesbian community to fight back; it’s like playing Whack-A-Mole. It’s also ironic; this is the same modus operandi that the Religious Reich used to win support for their agenda thirty years ago: infiltrate at the state and local level, the momentum will build from below. We learned, more’s the pity, that it worked for them. Now it’s our turn.