NYC Offers ’Marriage Ceremony’ - for Domestic Partnership
City clerks in NYC will soon be offering gay and lesbian couples who enter domestic partnerships a ceremony to celebrate their legal ties, such as they are.
The New York Daily News reported on May 17 that although marriage equality remains beyond the grasp of New York’s same-sex couples seeking to be united in a civilly recognized relationship, the long-standing ordinance that permits for domestic partnerships for city residents will, for a $35 fee, come complete with a little pomp and circumstance come June 3, when the city hall offices in all five boroughs start offering "civil ceremonies."
"We thought it was a good idea," said City Clerk Michael McSweeney.
"Not everyone is going to want a ceremony, but if they do they should be able to have it," said city councilman James Van Bramer.
But others dismissed the gesture, reported Metro International news on May 18. "It’s important no one get confused," said the director of Freedom to Marry, Evan Wolfson, "into thinking this is in any way marriage or good enough."
City councilor Gale Brewer put it plainly, saying, "I don’t know why--if it’s not real--would anybody participate?" Added Brewer, "I do worry that it’s a little bit more about revenue enhancement [for the city’s coffers] as opposed to fighting for marriage."
The Daily Post article noted that most of the domestic partnerships (70%) granted by the city go to heterosexual couples, who could opt for city-, state-, and federal-level marriage equality via a single ceremony, if they wanted. heterosexual marriage endows mixed-gender couples with more than 1,000 rights and protections that gay and lesbian families are denied, including health care rights, inheritance protections, and pension rights.
For gay and lesbian families, for whom marriage equality is a closed door on a federal level, and for whom state-level marriage is available in only six states nationwide, the new city-wide ceremony may be meaningful, but only in a symbolic way; the new ceremony, said the president of Manhattan’s Stonewall Democratic Club, Joseph Hagelmann, "Sounds like a small step in the right direction. But we’re not going to be happy until we have full marriage equality."
In some respects, the state government of New York will honor same-sex marriages granted in other jurisdictions, including the half-dozen nations around the globe where marriage equality is now legal, including Canada, South Africa, and--most recently--Portugal.
Gotham state lawmakers had a chance to add New York to the list of American states that grant gay and lesbian families legal marriage rights, but late last year, in a special session, a bill to extend family parity fell short in the state Senate--although the state Assembly had approved the measure three times already.
But while domestic partnerships are far from the equal of marriage, they do allow couples--either straight or gay--access to family benefits if one of them works for the city government.