This blog post is addressed toward the New York State Senators who voted against Marriage Equality Bill S66003 today, denying same-sex couples in New York the right to marry: Senators Joseph Addabbo, Jim Alesi, Darrel Aubertine, John Bonacic, John DeFrancisco, Ruben Diaz Sr., Hugh Farley, John Flanagan, Chuck Fuschillo, Marty Golden (my Senator), Joe Griffo, Kemp Hannon, Shirley Huntley, Owen Johnson, Carl Kruger, Andrew Lanza, Bill Larkin, Ken LaValle, Vincent Leibell, Tom Libous, Betty Little, Carl Marcellino, George Maziarz, Roy McDonald, Hiram Monserrate, Tom Morahan, Mike Nozzolio, George Onorato, Frank Padavan, Mike Ranzenhofer, Joe Robach, Stephen Saland, Jim Seward, Dean Skelos, Bill Stachowski, Dale Volker, George Winner and Catharine Young.
Since you voted no on this bill, perhaps you missed Senator Diane Savino’s impassioned speech earlier today:
Senator Savino is right. This is not a political issue. It is an issue of fairness, of upholding civil rights and responsibilities, that affects tens of thousands of very real people in New York – and at least two in your district, Senator Golden. As a resident of the State of New York within the United States of America, I have the right to equal civil protections that are afforded to other New Yorkers, regardless of my race, gender, or creed, and as a Senator representing me and other New Yorkers, you have a responsibility to ensure those rights are granted and protected. No matter what faith you practice, what political agenda you support, where you come from or the values you were raised with, or whether popular opinion agrees with those rights or not, you have a responsibility to the people of this state, and your district, to uphold their civil rights.
However, you and I both know that marriage is more than a piece of paper – more than a list of rights granted by the government. With rights come responsibility to each other. A marriage is defined by the people within it, not by their community or their government. On that note, I’d like to tell you a story of my own relationship and how that reflects what marriage means to me. I welcome your comments on what marriage means to you.
One year ago today, I was getting ready to leave work when I received a call that I hope none of you ever receives. My partner of almost five years was in the hospital. I rushed over there in a state of shock and fear. I was only able to see her for about 10 minutes that night. The whole subway ride home I cried. I couldn’t sleep. The following day I was able to go back and see her for a total of two hours and I left uncertain of what would happen next.
I took the next week and a half off from work, using vacation days I’d been planning to use over Christmas, to spend as much time as I was allowed in the hospital with her: two hours per day. Even as I saw her improving, I left the hospital every day fighting back tears. The time I was not at the hospital I spent calling our friends, family, her employer and professors to keep them updated. I barely ate. I lost weight. I had nightmares. I spent day to day not knowing what would happen next.
After two weeks she was well enough to be discharged from the hospital and we began the recovery process together. One year later, I can say that every single day I wake up next to my partner I am thankful to be with her. I am thankful for the love that we share, for the family that we’ve created and the prospect of the children we plan to add to our family. I’m even thankful for the stress of the last year because it has strengthened our relationship, allowed me to not take a single moment for granted and realize how much I truly love her. Last week we celebrated our first Thanksgiving together, in our home, and the meaning of the day was not lost on me.
In my opinion, a true marriage is defined by equality in love, commitment, honor and respect between the two participants, not sexual attraction to a particular gender, not money, not convenience. Too often, a man and a woman enter into a union for the latter reasons, and we apply the word “marriage” to it without a second thought. Isn’t this more detrimental to the sanctity of marriage than my union?
So I don’t just want a list of benefits. I don’t just want a civil union. I want my relationship to be recognized by the State of New York, where I have lived and worked and loved for the last ten years, as a commitment of my intentions with my partner, and I want the fairness and dignity and respect that every single heterosexual couple who receives a civil marriage license is automatically regarded, without question for how the participants in that marriage treat one another. That can only come by recognizing these rights and responsibilties with the word marriage, not “civil union”.
If you are married, I ask you: do you love your partner so much that the thought of not being able to be with him or her scares as much as it does me? If so, why would you deny my partner and me the same benefits you and your partner enjoy – many benefits that you are probably not even aware of? Am I so different? Perhaps you don’t agree with my lifestyle. I respect your right to your opinion and values. But does the fact that I share my life with woman and not a man make me less deserving of our state’s protections than you? If I were able to call my relationship a “marriage” instead of a “partnership”, and receive the same benefits that you do, how does that change the love you share with your family? How does it change that of our neighbors?
If you don’t love your partner as I’ve described above, I hope that one day you will find someone who brings you as much happiness as my partner brings me. And that nobody will ever deny you your right to celebrate that love and receive the respect it deserves to the fullest degree possible.