The couple lives in Albany and wants to get married here. “We have deep ties to this community and we don’t want to travel to get married. We want our family and friends to be there. It’s a big deal,” said Junjulas.
Lucky for Junjulas and Green, that day may finally be on the horizon.
In a press conference held in Albany on Monday, Sen. Thomas K. Duane, D-WFP Manhattan, assured the dozens of gay and lesbian couples, as well as present elected officials, that the day where same-sex marriage is legal in New York is closer than we may think.
Sen. Duane stood with his partner of sixteen and a half years, Louis Werbe, gave him a kiss and said, “We are denied a civil right because of who we love. I am confident that by the end of this year the marriage equality legislation will come to the floor and will pass.
Legislators from the State Assembly passed marriage equality legislation earlier this month by a vote of 89 to 52. Sen. Duane, who is a prime sponsor of this legislation in the Senate, said he has already gathered enough votes for it to pass, but he wouldn’t say which votes he’d captured, only “a majority of democrats and some republicans.” He stated that he is sure that he has Republican votes.
According to Duane, the legislation could pass as soon as it is brought to the floor. So why not introduce it now?
More votes. “I want this to pass with the strongest possible showing and a solid majority,” Sen. Duane said. “New York should be a leader in civil rights. Louis and I have been together through good times and bad times, laughter and tears, just like every other couple, but we can’t get married, and that’s wrong.”
Monday also marked the first day of Pride Month which will be celebrated in the Capital Region from June 4 to June 14 with a series of events to raise awareness for gay rights across the region. The New York Civil Liberties Union also marked the beginning of Pride Month when it launched a new website on Monday. The site offers New Yorkers easy tools to lobby their state senators to ask them to support the marriage bill.
MarriageNY.com features videos of lesbian and gay couples from around New York State telling their stories and asking for the right to marry in New York, and offers simple ways for New Yorkers to spread the word that the senate must vote to protect all of New York’s families.
“There are only about three weeks left in the legislative session. New Yorkers must speak up now and demand protection for all of New York’s families,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “We must urge our senators to be on the right side of history and support fairness and equality for all New Yorkers.”
Dozens of couples came from across New York State to attend Sen. Duane’s event and were thrilled with his outlook. “There are over 1,000 rights we don’t have that other couples do,” Green said. “It’s not a religious issue, it’s a civil rights issue.” Green is a reverend at First Congregational Church in Albany, a progressive Christian community which welcomes all people regardless of sexual orientation or sect of Christianity. “We very much support this movement and are thrilled at the progress,” he finished.
Junjulas, who is the executive director of the Albany Damien Center, the Capital Region’s HIV/AIDS community center, just wants the same rights as everyone else. “Is this 2009, or 1960?” he said. “We’re normal people and do the same things as everyone else. We’re boring, we work, go home, watch TV, and go to bed, why can’t we get married?”
New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand made an unexpected appearance at the meeting and echoed many of the same messages that the couples and Sen. Duane were trying to convey. “This is about equal rights,” she said. “Marriage equality is the civil rights movement of this generation.”
Throughout the conference Sen. Duane continually assured the couples and onlookers that change is coming, that the marriage equality legislation will pass. Sen. Duane said he’s secured the votes and “no one is leaving until it’s done.”
And if Sen. Duane is right? “We’re securing a banquet hall and ordering flowers,” Junjulas said. “It’s going to be beautiful.”