Gay rights advocates celebrated the vote by the New York state legislature that legalized same-sex marriage, but one local activist hopes it means change in Kentucky.
The controversial bill cleared the Republican-controlled state Senate in the Empire State after heavy lobbying by Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, who courted affluent GOP donors for support. The new law takes effect in less than 30 days, and marriage equality activists believe it will have a national effect and that other states will soon follow.
Louisville Fairness Campaign Director Chris Hartman says public opinion on gay rights is shifting and even more conservative states will come around.
“What we continue to see is as time progresses the amount of American and Kentuckian acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and their equal civil rights has continued to steadily climb,” he says.
Opponents, however, point out that Kentucky voters overwhelming supported a constitutional amendment banning same-sex unions by a 3-to-1 margin less than seven years ago. And the General Assembly still hasn’t gotten close to debating a statewide fairness law in committee. The law would bar discrimination in housing, public accommodations and the workplace based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Still, Hartman believes gay marriage is inevitable in the commonwealth and only the time frame is in question.
“The logic in the trend is that ultimately 100 percent of Americans are going to believe that equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans and Kentuckians is just intrinsically logical,” he says. “The same way that we made that decision for the black civil rights movement.”
Gay couples still cannot get married in 44 states and 30 have taken steps to pass constitutional amendments banning same-sex unions. Out-of-state requests for marriage licenses will be considered in New York later this month.