Gov. David A. Paterson has directed all state agencies to begin to revise their policies and regulations to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions, like Massachusetts, California and Canada.
In a directive issued on May 14, the governor’s legal counsel, David Nocenti, instructed the agencies that gay couples married elsewhere “should be afforded the same recognition as any other legally performed union.”
The revisions are most likely to involve as many as 1,300 statutes and regulations in New York governing everything from joint filing of income tax returns to transferring fishing licenses between spouses.
This is an important first step in finally getting government out of the marriage business. Paterson's move will, predictably, ignite a firestorm, but it is probably the only way to get the ossified power structures of the state to finally start dealing with the issue.
I know some of you reading this are probably agog at the idea of a Republican supporting the governor's actions. I can appreciate that intelligent people disagree with my point of view, but I think it's long overdue that we get rid of the whole idea of government approved marriages and replace it with civil unions. Why should the state have any role at all in what is, essentially, a religious ceremony? Transferring the traditional legal rights and obligations of marriage into the framework of civil unions would solve a multitude of problems while still allowing the faithful to enter into marriage via a simple checkbox. The important part is that individuals would be able to self-define the nature of their relationship instead of deferring to the state's power.