Last week, Governor Paterson proposed that the New York State Legislature adopt legislation legalizing same sex marriage. We note that legalizing same sex marriage will improve New York City's economy while living up to our moral obligation to end the discrimination in our state and in our city against homosexual residents and the outcome of that fight will be determined in the New York State Senate. This fight for liberty and equality will be decided in the New York State Senate, and the outcome is completely uncertain.
State Senate at the Crossroads
The legislation proposed by Governor Paterson passed the New York State Assembly by a wide margin in 2007, but it failed to get to the floor of the New York State Senate. Since then, the Democrats have taken over the New York State Senate by a very thin majority, making adoption of the legislation more likely but uncertain.
It is rare in the New York State legislature for a vote to be taken in either chamber on a piece of legislation that the leadership of that chamber is not certain will obtain a majority vote. With this piece of legislation, the vote will be too close to call right up to the moments before the vote.
Economic Growth and Same Sex Marriage
City Comptroller Bill Thompson produced a report in 2007 that attempted to estimate the economic impact of legalizing same sex marriage. His analysis suggested that New York State would benefit from approximately $250 million of economic activity over three years simply from the weddings that would take place in the state after the legalization of same sex marriage. He also estimated that $175 million of the $250 million would be economic activity benefiting New York City.
Many couples living in New York City would take advantage of the new law and begin planning weddings, while both New York City and New York State would benefit from out-of-state couples coming to New York for their weddings. New York's hotels and banquet halls would see increased activity. The sooner New York State acts, the greater the benefit, as the lack of equivalent opportunities in neighboring states will increased the economic activity in New York State in the near term. Longer term, we'd expect neighboring states to follow our lead and provide equal rights to their residents irrespective of sexual orientation
Benefits of Marriage to New Yorkers
There are more than 1,100 federal rights and more than 1,300 New York State rights available to married couples that are not available to couples who are not married. Therefore, the prohibition against marriage for same sex couples in New York State who wish to marry is equivalent to the systematic denial of nearly 2,500 rights to those New Yorkers.
An excellent example of the types of rights that only married couple enjoy is the spousal privilege - a married person cannot be compelled to testify in court about communications with his or her spouse. Without marriage, there is no privilege, and same sex couples who wish to marry are left without this crucial protection.
Beyond the enormous psychological benefits of marriage, we must recognize that there are thousands of important rights that are available only to individuals who are married and that, by preventing some of our fellow New Yorkers from gaining the status of being married, we are participants in a state-sponsored discrimination exercise that attacks our neighbors.
Being a Better New York
Legalizing same sex marriage makes us all better. It continues the march to greater personal equality and freedom that our country has undertaken - from slavery to Jim Crow, women's suffrage, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, to today. It adds hundreds of millions of dollars to our economy and vindicates our self-image as a land of equal opportunity.
We urge the New York State Senate to support Governor Paterson in this historic battle.