In 2009 when the marriage equality bill came before the Senate for a vote, I struggled with the decision. This is an issue which a great many have a deep and passionate interest, both those for marriage quality and those who support the traditional view of marriage. In part, the difficulty in arriving at my decision is that I respect and understand the views coming from both sides of the issue.In fact, my decision today is rooted in my upbringing. My parents taught us to be respectful, tolerant and accepting of others and to do the right thing. I’ve received thousands of calls, e-mails, post cards and letters.
Many of them, whether they were from proponents or opponents, concluded by calling upon me to do the right thing. I want to do the right thing, but needless to say, that decision cannot be the “right thing” for both sides of the equation and, whatever my decision, there will be many who will be disappointed.
As a traditionalist, I have long viewed marriage as a union between a man and woman. As one who believes in equal rights, I understood that the State was denying marriage to those in same sex relationships. In 2009, I believed that civil unions for same sex couples would be a satisfactory conclusion.Since that time, I have met with numerous groups and individuals on both sides of the issue, especially during the last few months. As I did, I anguished over the importance and significance of my vote.
Poughkeepsie is a pretty conservative place, and judging from the comments in the local rag, his vote may have cost him re-election. And some of the comments are downright threatening, with one reader promising "public humiliation in a restaurant."
But I like to think of my own little town of New Paltz as being one of the radical linchpins of the gay marriage movement. It's a university town, so that explains why we actually elect Green Party candidates from time to time. It's also a stone's throw from Woodstock (actually Bethel) and a lot of aging hippies just never left. A young man named Jason West, a recent graduate of SUNY here, was mayor in 2004 when he illegally performed the state's very first same-sex marriages in an act of civil disobedience. He was charged with nearly two dozen misdemeanors by the county district attorney, and served with a court injunction to cease and desist the ceremonial political street theater. The case was later thrown out of court, but Jason ultimately lost his re-election bid to a Democrat since he'd tried to force through a pay raise for himself to supplement the proceeds from his defense fund to pay his legal bills. After a spell of homelessness and a stint as a grad student on the West Coast, a little older and wiser (but still poor), he was just re-elected mayor last month. (before the liberal students left for the summer!) The mayoral gig still doesn't pay that much, so Jason is also a housepainter by trade. To his credit, he has turned down an offer from DreamWorks for perpetual rights to his life story.
|New Paltz Mayor Jason West|
The marriage equality law here in New York, as well as the repeal of DADT, were not things that politicians decided to hand out from the goodness of their venal little hearts. They agreed to go along to get along. It also didn't hurt that a few Wall Street millionaires who support Cuomo and the rest of the political machine have gay relatives. It was the gay community and its supporters who got this law through the legislature. Civil rights movements and small acts of civil disobedience are staging a comeback. Next up: the Poor People's Coalition, 99ers United, the Gray Panthers and ever-growing groups becoming too numerous to count. The politicians "evolve" only if the people resolve.