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An Open Letter to State Senator Mark Grisanti

“If it were to come up to a vote today, I would vote ‘no’ because of the term ‘marriage’ being in there other groups had said to me that, you know, we don’t really care about the term ‘marriage’ as long as we have the 1,324 rights that we’re not allowed to have for married couples, and I agree that they should have those rights.”

—New York State Senator Mark Grisanti, on YNN’s Capital Tonight.

I challenge you, Senator, to name these “members of the gay community” you claim would be satisfied with “civil unions” as a compromise in the civil rights struggle for full marriage equality in New York State! The creation of a “civil union” status might indeed mistakenly satisfy a very few individuals, who are ignorant of the ultimate inequity of any such conciliation. In effect, however, what you offer to me and others is, quite simply, a different seat at the back of the bus.

Marriage equality is a civil rights issue. The entire issue revolves around the very word “marriage,” and certain individuals who wrongly claim exclusive rights to the word, the concept, the commitment, and the value to our society it represents. Human civil rights are absolute. They cannot be equivocated, parsed, or negotiated through a rubric of cynical public opinion polling, fundraising receipts, or re-election strategies.

Had you indeed familiarized yourself sincerely with our particular demographic population, you would know that no local, state, or national LGBT civil rights organizations concurs with you that any significant number of gay and lesbian Americans are willing to accept anything less than full marriage equality. In fact, the vast majority have years ago rejected any of the substitute flawed constructs such as “civil unions.” The statements you made publicly are, at best, misleading and disingenuous. At worst, your statements belie an irrational latent homophobia and intolerance that no amount of reason or personal experience will ever remedy.

Your agreement that we “should have those rights” is a callous platitude and hollow rhetoric—since your refusal to vote for marriage equality legislation effectively threatens the realization of those rights to the many who have fought for so long!

As an attorney you know full well that “civil union” legislation will never approximate, or equal, the rights conveyed by a “civil marriage” certificate—it is simply a lie to state otherwise. Ethically, your “personal reservations” should rightly take a back seat to your sworn duty to represent all New Yorkers. “Civil union” legislation will mire our already overburdened judicial system with countless litigations, as individuals sue to clarify new and untested laws, battling to ensure that any “civil union” status maintains full equity with established matrimonial law. Our state cannot afford another institutionalized quagmire such as that which “civil union” legislation would assuredly create in our courts.

Likewise, our state cannot afford to ignore the tax revenue and profits to small business that would be generated via the extensive wedding industry. Caterers, florists, clothiers, hotels, and restaurants would all generate revenue that our cash strapped state and region desperately need. Families, far from being “threatened,” would be considerably enhanced.

You have alluded in other comments that, as a Catholic, you cannot reconcile your religious beliefs with voting to ratify equal ‘civil’ marital status to homosexuals, thereby denying access to the 1,324 rights automatically conveyed by a civil marriage license in New York State. Your inability to separate your personal religious beliefs from the rights and welfare of all your constituents calls into question your fitness to serve in your capacity as a lay official elected to secular public office. Any such personal religious concerns on your part strike directly at the constitutional heart of the church/state separation envisioned by our founding fathers. Ironically, you reference the very religion at whose core lies the instruction by Christ to “judge not,” and to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Recent events in the news once again show that there is indeed no “sanctity” in the institution of marriage when it comes to conservatives, Christians, hypocrites, and homophobes like former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Senator John McCain, presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, and others too numerous to name here, who have repeatedly violated their “sacred” vows of matrimony! The only credible and verifiable threat to the “institution of marriage’ and the ‘American family” is posed by moral hypocrites and political opportunists who allow millions of individuals and their families to be demeaned, slandered, and denied their equal rights under the law.

Separate but equal is anything but—not in drinking fountains, bus seats, class rooms, or the marriage license bureau at city hall. It’s not too late to re-examine your conscience and your duty to all New Yorkers. Recognition of our families will do much to strengthen and propel our state toward a better tomorrow, by freeing the thousands of us currently consumed by this fight and enabling us to move on other social issues such as healthcare reform, failing schools, and stronger, safer communities. Cowing to the political pressure of irrational prejudice, ignorance, and intolerance will only keep us divided and mired in our own collective dysfunction.

Paul Morgan and Mark Nowak, Buffalo

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