In 2009, legislation for same-sex marriage was brought to the New York Senate floor and my representative at the time, Andrew Lanza (who is still in office, by the way) voted against it. This is what he had to say to his constituents:
To Whom it May Concern:
Thank you for your recent correspondence with my office regarding same sex marriage legislation. There has been no vote yet on this issue within the New York State Senate, as Senate Democrats have not brought it to the floor.
I believe that no one should be treated unfairly, which is why I support civil unions as the preferred approach on this issue. I believe that we should legislatively secure equal benefits for same sex couples, without changing the definition of marriage. Accordingly, I do not support the legislation as it is currently proposed.
Once again, thank you for your recent correspondence with my office. Please, do not hesitate to contact my district office 718-984-4073 with any questions or concerns.
I don't hate him or think he's evil, and I don't doubt his sincerity about his belief that no one should be treated unfairly, but I just don't think Senator Lanza truly knows what fairness is. To give you some background, Lanza, an openly religious man, was reportedly advised by his priest not to support same-sex marriage legislation while urged by his (now-deceased) mother to "be a leader" and vote in favor of it. I expressed a similar opinion to his mother in my response to Lanza's email to me:
Dear Senator Lanza,
Thank you very much for your reply, Senator. I appreciate your concern and respect your opinion on equality for same sex couples. However, I am troubled by your unwillingness to "change the definition of marriage," because we, as a nation, have strived on extending our definition of equality to include those who were denied it in the past. In order to be a truly equal state, we cannot have state-sanctioned separations amongst our citizens. Giving "separate but equal" terms to the unions of same-sex couples would be akin to some very dark times in American history.
As American history has shown time and again, we will eventually do the right thing and afford all our citizens the equality they have every right to possess. Progress is the epitome of America and it is only a matter of time before same-sex marriage will be as common as non-segregated schools. But it is up to you, Senator, to be a trailblazer and put New York up there in the ranks of Massachusetts, Iowa and other states by providing same sex marriages for your constituents. I want New York and yourself to be written in history books as pioneers, not roadblocks, in the path of equality.
Thank you. I really do hope you change your mind.
I can imagine it must have been hard for Sen. Lanza to go against his mother's wishes and vote against marriage equality legislation once again in 2011. And as it came to pass anyway without his support, he will now go down in history as one of the many lawmakers who were, at this point in time, too short-sighted to see America's potential as an equal society.
Right now, we are at another historical moment. These are really special times: times where we can almost see ourselves in the future reflecting on the present. When we talk about the right or wrong side of history it is because right now, while we may not know the exact path of the future, the destination is definitely equality. These are times where we can choose to be (as Lanza's mother urged) leaders, or fighters, or by-standers, or roadblocks. For some people, like Lanza, it won't be an easy choice, but since we have the destination in sight, we can use it to guide the way.