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Outspoken for Equality

Activists head to Albany to fight for same-sex marriage legislation

Kitty Lambert is one of the most enthusiastic people you will ever meet. Lambert and her partner of 14 years, Cheryle Rudd, are both grandmothers who lead the group Outspoken for Equality. This Tuesday, April 29, they are going to Albany to meet with state leaders about the issue of gay marriage.

Outspoken for Equality is working on the passage of the Marriage Equality Bill in New York, not only to recognize same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions but also to allow same-sex couples to marry in the state and provide them with the same rights and privileges afforded heterosexual couples. The group emphasizes that marriage is a civil right and that governments, not religious institutions, issue marriage licenses. With marriage comes 1,324 New York State rights, benefits, and protections that are denied to LGBT families.

Currently, New York State recognizes same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions. If you’re a gay couple and you marry in parts of Canada, Spain, Vermont, or Massachusetts, New York will recognize that union. This carries over into insurance and health benefits, although those benefits are taxed as income because such unions are not recognized at the federal level.

Michael James, chair of the Stonewall Democrats of Western New York, says, “We used to be attacked for being promiscuous and not being family-oriented. Now that we want the right to marry, we’re being attacked for ruining family values. I’ve been in a monogamous relationship for 31 years. My sister is on her fourth marriage.”

The group has worked with several politicians open to gay marriage. They praise Governor David Paterson for having a nonconfrontational style, and they believe the political climate is promising for equality. They also applaud politicians such as Sam Hoyt, Antoine Thompson, Byron Brown, and Mark Schroeder. Schroeder, they point out, initially signed onto DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act), ostensibly for religious reasons. The group met with Schroeder and talked to him about the history of marriage in New York State. On the books, marriage by law has always been intended to protect assets, inheritance rights, and estates, and has had nothing to do with religious affiliation.

Schroeder researched the topic and came to the conclusion that the wording of marriage as a contractual bond involving property rights indeed had nothing to do with religion and has now come to support gay marriage.

“Every senator not on board will be a focus of our efforts. We want to educate not alienate them, ” says Bruce Kogan, retired from the New York State Crime Victims Board.

Politicians the group is focusing on are bipartisan. State senators such as Mary Lou Rath, Dale Volker, and George Maziarz are Republicans. However, Democrats such as Bill Stachowski have also signed onto DOMA.

Many politicians cite religion or their constituency as factors in not supporting gay rights.

When Lambert asked Maziarz why he was against gay marriage, he said, “I’m a devout Catholic,” to which Lambert retorted, “Your constituents didn’t elect you to be a good Catholic.”

“Churches have even helped us with our letter writing campaigns,” says Lambert. Pilgrim St. Luke’s, Temple Beth Zion, and Unity Church are just a few that have shown support.

“I’m a citizen of the United States, I pay my taxes, raise my children, volunteer to my community, I want to protect my family. We’re frustrated that our children are dismissed as not being in a family. We hope more folks will realize allowing gays to marry will add to the economic stability of the state,” says Lambert.

Equality and Justice Day is Tuesday, April 29. If you’d like more information or would like to join the lobby on Albany contact: OUTspokenformarriage.org/578-3782.

lucy yau

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