The legalization of gay marriage in New York State is tied directly to its economic success said Albany Law School Professor Paul Finkelman to members of Friday night.
Smiles, hugs, kisses and high fives were exchanged inside the temple as news of the passage of the bill that would legalize gay marriage in New York State passed 33-29.
Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill shortly after midnight Saturday morning. The passage came just days shy of the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which some consider the birthplace of the gay rights movement.
“This is the first stone in the road that will lead to downfall of the DOMA [Defense of Marriage Act],” said Finkleman the guest speaker at the temple's third annual Pride Shabbat.
Finkelman treated members of the temple to a brief lesson on how the rights of others have been used as political tools throughout history. The professor pointed to various events like the first Jewish citizen to stand night watch in the newly renamed city of New York and his claim to a share of land that guaranteed him rights and the same privileges and protections afford to all citizens of the city.
He also alluded to the Lincoln-Douglas debates and the integration of the U.S. military during World War II as events that paved the way for African-Americans' rights that culminated in the Civil Rights movement.
“It’s about civil rights, stupid,” exclaimed Finkelman rewording then Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton’s campaign slogan adding, “It’s not about sex or marriage or law. It is about civil rights and the rights of people to show affection for whoever they want to.”
The congregation of Temple Israel of New Rochelle is known for its welcoming nature and robust series of events that embraces gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals and their families as valued members of our community.
“I don’t want to say it out loud. I don’t want to jinx it,” said Linda Barat, who along with Sharon Gorman-Cooper head the Kulanu Committee that supports and advocates for all LGBT individuals, families and friends.
As members arrived for the Shabbat service, rumblings of “Any word yet? Is it done?” filled the temple halls.
Gorman-Cooper and Barat waited with bated breath as news slowly trickled into the temple via smart phones and word of mouth.
“I was afraid they are going to do the Senator Bruno trick of inaction,” said John Hirsh, who along with Herbert Leiman trekked from Great Neck, Long Island to take part in the Pride Shabbat.
“The fact that New York was not the first state to legalize gay marriage is an embarrassment,” Finkelman told New Rochelle Patch. “You cannot be a major player in the world economy and have bigotry and hate as part of your culture. We are in competition with London, Berlin and other major centers around the world. Not having [gay marriage] legal in the state is driving business away,” he added.
The Albany Law School professor pointed to major industry leaders like New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg who have championed the cause.
“There is nothing logical about stopping the passage of the bill. All the arguments are about irrational fears,” Finkelman said. It was statement he echoed in his address to the congregation during the Shabbat service.
Finkelman explained that marriage is a civil contract defined by the law not religion, adding that the United States Supreme Court has ruled that sex between members of the same sex is constitutional, begging the question why not gay marriage?
When asked about how state Senate Republicans were discussing the bill behind closed doors Finkleman said, “It’s completely absurd. It’s publicly embarrassing to them to say I oppose or I support. Besides sunlight kills bacteria.”
Finkleman opened the floor to questions after the ceremony answering as completely as possible.
A congregant asked him about the amendment to the bill that would indemnify religious institutions from having to perform weddings.
“It is a way of saying look what I did to stand against it. I want voters to know I am against it and I protected the institution. It gives them an out by saying we did our best,” Finkleman responded.
As news of the up or down vote came in and hugs and kisses were exchanged, Linda Barat reflected on the professor’s comments.
“I’m a romantic in every way. Everyone should have the chance to love and the opportunity to marry any one they wish,” she said.