NY Marriage Debate Highlights Concrete Harms for Families

The debate for—or against—marriage for gay and lesbian couples in New York has taken a number of twists and turns.  From spats about the religiosity of granting marriage to gay and lesbian couples, to threats of political annihilation come 2012, the conversation around marriage equality in the Empire State has certainly polarized lawmakers, forcing them to take sides.   But for those outside of Albany, playing the political game isn’t their concern. They stand to lose something greater: their families. On Sunday, as thousands showed up to protest the momentum marriage is receiving both in the legislature and in the community, a familiar face watched as her grandfather told her that her life was wrong. Erica Diaz, a 22-year-old lesbian, is the granddaughter of Ruben Diaz, Sr, the Bronx senator and Pentacostal minister who, for the past years has rallied the largely black and Latino communities against marriage. On Sunday, she organized her own pro-marriage equality rally—across the plaza from where her grandfather was hosting his. She even at one point ventured over to his rally and took to the podium. “It was important,” Diaz told The New York Times regarding her decision to go onstage. “I wanted him to know that I’m here, and that as long as I’m alive, I’m going to stand up for what is right.” And Erica isn’t alone in standing for what’s right. According to the most recent polling data, nearly 60 percent of New Yorkers support granting marriage to gay and lesbian couples. Even the business leaders are urging Albany to legalize marriage for gay and lesbian couples. Last month, two dozen “high-profile” business leaders released an open letter urging state lawmakers to legalize marriage for gay and lesbian couples. Signers of the letter, which included Lloyd C. Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs and Jerry Speyer, chairman of Tishman Speyer Properties, also highlighted the concrete harms that couples denied the opportunity to get married in New York face saying: “In an age where talent determines the economic winners, great states and cities must demonstrate a commitment to creating an open, healthy and equitable environment in which to live and work.  As other states, cities and countries across the world extend marriage rights regardless of sexual orientation, it will become increasingly difficult to recruit the best talent if New York cannot offer the same benefits and protections.” GLAAD is working with the New York United for Marriage coalition to media train committed couples to share their stories of love and commitment.