New York's legalization of same-sex marriage last week is a milestone for the nation and a triumph for those who cherish and promote fairness and human dignity.
The state Senate's 33-29 vote will permit gays and lesbians to marry in New York beginning in late July. The victory was a long time arriving; its importance cannot be overstated. New York is a bellwether state, and approval there will encourage those who support same-sex marriage to expand their efforts to other states. Those endeavors should be encouraged.
The legislative victory in New York will be hard to duplicate. Twenty-nine states - including Tennessee - currently have constitutional bans on same-sex marriage. Twelve others have laws forbidding it. That scenario is unlikely to change, even though recent public opinion polls indicate a majority of Americans now support same-sex marriage. Too many people and legislators continue to define marriage as an institution between a man and a woman. That's an arcane definition that should be updated to reflect contemporary society..
While a majority of marriages today are between a man and woman, there is no guarantee that such a union is the only or the best one. Indeed, there's considerable evidence to the contrary. Too many heterosexual marriages end in divorce to sustain that claim.
There are many stable and long-lasting unions between same-sex couples that testify to the strength of their bond. Those couples - and the families they raise - deserve the same legal rights, benefits and protections that legality confers on heterosexual marriages. New York becomes the sixth and largest state to provide them.
The New York law was approved because four Republicans broke party ranks to support it. Their decision to do what they felt was right rather than politically expedient is admirable. Sen. Mark Grisanti, who ran for office on a platform opposing same-sex marriage, was one of the GOP quartet who voted to approve same-sex marriage. His reasoning was heart-felt.
"I apologize for those who feel offended," the freshman legislator said. "I cannot deny a person, a human being, a taxpayer, a worker, the people of my district and across the state, the State of New York and those people who make this the great state that it is, the same rights that I have with my wife."
The vision and bravery of Grisanti - "I probably just committed political suicide," he told a reporter after the vote -and others who supported the measure is rare these days, but it is welcome. When the law they approved takes effect it will double the number of Americans who will live in places where same- sex marriage is permitted. That's a major step forward in the quest for marriage and personal equality. It should not be the last.
The effort to extend the benefits and rights of marriage to same-sex couples to every part of the United States should be continued and expanded. It's the right thing to do.