As part of its long-standing commitment to welcoming gay and lesbian couples into our communities and congregations, the Reform Jewish Movement supports full civil marriage rights for same-sex couples. Our religious values and principles affirm that we are all, gay men lesbians straight men and women, created b'tselem Elohim -- in the image of God -- and charge us "to love our neighbor as ourselves."
A bill providing civil marriage equality has passed the Assembly every year since it was introduced in 2007. Legalization would allow couples to enter into a binding civil marriage and provide access to the thousands of federal and state rights and responsibilities given to heterosexual married couples today, including fundamental family and financial protections such as medical decision-making authority, inheritance rights, tax rights, the right to make end-of-life decisions, and the ability to adopt children as a couple.
In July 2006, New York's highest court, the Court of Appeals, found that New York's Constitution did not require that marriage be made available to same-sex couples. The court said it was up to the New York State legislature to pass a law allowing same-sex couples to marry. It is important to note that recognition of civil marriage equality would have no effect on religious marriage and any clergy member who objects to marrying same-sex couples could continue to refuse to officiate at a wedding.
On April 22, 2009, 19 New York State Senators introduced the Marriage Equality Bill (S. 4401) to amend the domestic relations law to allow for same-sex marriages. The bill had passed the Assembly for the third time and it was brought up for debate and a vote late in the year. However on December 2, 2009, the New York State Senate voted 24-38 to defeat the bill, effectively killing this legislation until the next session. All 30 Republicans and eight Democrats voted against the bill, even though polling done around the time of the vote found that a majority of New Yorkers supported the bill.1
Governor Andrew Cuomo made a campaign promise to pass a Marriage Equality law during his first year in office. As of April 2011, a Governor's Program bill has not yet been introduced into either the Assembly or Senate; however there is much excitement around the possibility of passing legislation this session. State-wide opinion polls show significant shifts towards support of Marriage Equality, with 58% of New York's registered voters stating support of Marriage Equality and only 36% voicing opposition, which is a new high for this poll (Siena Poll, April 4-6, 2011).
Additionally, in late April the newly formed New Yorkers for Marriage Equality, a coalition of the major LGBT rights organizations, announced it would be working together with the Governor's office and other state-wide advocacy groups to insure passage of Marriage Equality. Reports indicate that their campaign is extremely well funded and will include a media blitz, grassroots organizing and political fundraising.
- The right of marriage should be available to all New Yorkers.
- Religious marriage and civil marriage are different:
Recognition of same-sex couples' right to civil marriage will not affect religious marriage;
Each religious group is free to define religious marriage in its own way; and,
A clergyperson retains the right to refuse to officiate over same-sex marriages.
- Married couples receive thousands of federal and state-level legal protections, benefits and responsibilities with a civil marriage. Recognition by New York State of the right of same-sex couples to marry would provide access to rights such as fundamental family and financial rights.
- Reform Jewish Movement supports full equality for same-sex couples under the law, including legal recognition of these relationships.
- We urge all state legislators to co-sponsor and vote in support of legislation that endorses marriage equality and to oppose legislation that limits the rights of same-sex couples.