May 25, 2011
Mr. Ross D. Levi
Empire State Pride Agenda
126 State Street, 4th Floor
Albany, NY 12207
NYSUT strongly supports the enactment of marriage equality legislation. Support for marriage equality has long been an established policy of NYSUT and our affiliates the American Federation of Teachers and of the National Education Association. We have championed the equal treatment of persons under the law and condemned any behavior by any person or entity that discriminates against any group or individual and denies justice for all.
In 2008, an important decision by the State Supreme Court afforded all same-sex married couples in New York State the same access to contractual benefits as opposite-sex married couples, regardless of the state in which they were married. While this is a progressive step towards marriage and family equality for same sex couples, New York State has not achieved complete equal treatment for all of its citizens.
For New York State to continue to deny same-sex couples the right to marry not only confers unequal treatment and second-class status on same-sex couples, it unjustly denies these families the 1,100 statutorily guaranteed rights that same-sex couples are afforded. Such rights being denied to same-sex couples include: insurance coverage, child custody, property ownership, inheritance, health care, hospital visitation, and taxation. Failing to provide same-sex couples these rights enables discriminatory behavior by the state and perpetuates a view that: the relationships and commitments of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people are somehow different and inferior and should never be accepted as equal members of our American society.
Therefore, we seek a complete legislative remedy to such unacceptable discrimination. All people and all families deserve the ability to protect themselves with basic civil and legal rights and safeguards.
Currently, five other states (Iowa, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Washington, D.C.) have legalized same-sex marriages. New York State must not lag behind in providing equality for its citizens. A recent Quinnipiac University Poll shows New York State voters' support for same-sex marriage is at an all-time high, with 56 percent of those polled in support.
Civil rights activism of the 1960's ended the criminalization of interracial marriage. Additionally, the U.S. Supreme Court, in 1967, ruled that that marriage was "one of the basic civil rights of man" and that it was "fundamental to our very existence and survival" (U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Loving v. Virginia, 388 1967). As New York State citizens, who come from all walks of life, we now have the opportunity to ensure that every New Yorker is treated equally under our marriage laws.
NYSUT strongly believes that it is a fundamental civil right that same-sex couples are due equal treatment and protection under the law and urge New York State to finally enact marriage equality legislation.