First, I want to congratulate my gay and lesbian friends, colleagues and students on the passage of the marriage equality legislation. It is high time they can normalize their lives in the myriad ways that the rest of us can, providing for each other, taking care of each other, and pledging their hearts to each other.
It was a big win not only for the gay and lesbian community, but also for civil liberties. Everyone is entitled to the freedom to live a fulfilling life, and the freedom to care for each other. So all of us in the ACLU, the state affiliates like the NYCLU and the local chapters, are celebrating all over this state, indeed all over the country.
I also want to congratulate New York, Governor Cuomo and all the legislators and activists who worked to make this possible. This legislation puts New York back in the forefront of progressive legislation, right where New York ought to be.
And for those who were reluctant to see this happen, let me point out that even for them there is a silver lining. Several years ago I heard the late Kermit Hall, then president of the University at Albany, explaining at a breakfast meeting that liberality toward nonconformists of all sorts brought jobs because the firms that rely on innovation, on creativity, need, seek, and want to provide for, precisely those people who march to their own drummers. So they located major facilities where their most creative people feel comfortable. New York has been one of those places and we needed to continue to welcome people who are not comfortable elsewhere. This state is well-positioned for creative enterprise of all sorts. We have some of the finest educational institutions in the country. We have some of the most vibrant artistic communities in the country. That is one of the pillars of the New York economy. States that were willing to allow companies to provide benefits to gay and lesbian partners were rewarded for their sense of justice with the location of major corporate facilities. Supporting our gay population is actually good business sense.
That’s not my personal reason for joy about making gay marriage possible. Supporting their rights was the natural result of simply knowing people who are gay and lesbian. It’s been more than three decades since a student in West Virginia trusted me with that information while asking for a job reference. Even longer since I assisted New York City Councilwoman Carole Greitzer who represented Greenwich Village, including the gay population of the village. Since then I’ve had many students, colleagues, assistants and friends who are gay or lesbian. So there never was any question for me. Concern for those fine people meshed with their right to civil liberties. But let me add that justice is hardly the enemy of practical reasons. Justice is attractive. It is a big plus. It’s not a tradeoff.
The job is not over of course. We’re still one of only a handful of states that allow gay marriage. We need to let the world know that New York has not somehow fallen off a cliff. We’re not experiencing Judgment Day and the Rapture because we passed the gay marriage bill. The sun still shines here and many more people are smiling.
Congratulations to all.
— This commentary was broadcast on WAMC Northeast Report, June 26, 2011.