Group plugs marriage as civil right

Coalition encourages dialogue on latest subject of Patriot Games lecture series

August 26, 2010 | 04:01 AM
Marriage should be available for everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, according to the Long Island Progressive Coalition, which along with the Empire State Pride Agenda is hosting a “Marriage Equality and Families” lecture tonight, Thursday, at Huntington Public Library.

The talk is part of the LIPC’s Patriot Games series of monthly forums that examine American policy and programs, co-founder David Sprintzen said.

Tonight’s discussion is in cooperation with Legislator John Cooper (D-Lloyd Neck) and LIPC’s statewide affiliate, Citizen Action in New York, a nonpartisan campaign for progressive issues. “The forums are open,” Sprintzen said. “We try to welcome people from different points of view. We invite dialogue and discussion.”

Along with Cooper, an openly gay politician who is married to his partner, three or four gay couples will share their thoughts on marriage.

“I see marriage as a right,” said Cooper, who led Suffolk County’s creation of a domestic partners registry in 2006. “No child grows up, dreaming of the day when they could get domestic partnered. They dream of the day when they could get married. It’s universal. I don’t believe in separate but equal. I believe that there’s a real difference between a domestic partnership or civil union and civil marriage.”

He now wants the state to legalize civil marriage and is not concerned with the stances of religious institutions on the subject. “There are tens of thousands of same-sex couples in New York State that are in committed, long-term relationships, many of whom are raising children,” he said.

Noting that many of his gay friends have been in longer relationships than his straight ones, Cooper said, “Considering that we pay taxes like everyone else and we’re committed members of the community, as our neighbors, there should be a societal benefit to encourage couples in love to be in long-term monogamous relationships. … I have no doubt that we will achieve marriage equality, not just in New York State, but nationwide someday.”

According to polls, he claims, people in their 20s are overwhelmingly in support of same-sex marriage and as that generation moves into leadership positions, it will be a non issue.

While a gay couple can get married in some countries and states, including Connecticut, and those unions will be recognized in New York State, Cooper said, “It’s not the same thing. I think New York same-sex couples deserve the right to get married in New York State.”

Until it’s recognized at the federal level, the 1,400-plus rights and benefits of marriage, including Social Security and retirement benefits and adoption rights, will not be bestowed upon same-sex couples.

“I could be hit by a bus next Tuesday,” Cooper said, “and [partner] Rob will not get one penny of my Social Security benefits that I’ve built up over my life. Even though we’ve been together 30 years and we’ve raised five kids together. … That’s not right, and I think that most independent observers would agree that that’s not right.”

LIPC has come out in favor of marriage equality. “We certainly support marriage equality for all human beings, whether they be gay or straight,” Sprintzen said. “We don’t believe there should be any difference. But we welcome and we certainly invite people who have different views to come to share their views and ask questions.”