There are still hurdles to overcome in order to achieve true equality, remind others. For example, although New Hampshire, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, Massachusetts—and now New York—recognize same-sex marriages, the federal government does not.
This affects a host of financial benefits: tax deductions, health insurance, inheritance rights and executor guarantees, such as power of attorney, among others. In all, without federal recognition same-sex couples are denied more than 1,100 federal rights, protections and benefits granted married heterosexuals, according to the nonprofit Human Rights Campaign.
This remaining disparity is a lingering concern for Andrea Mattera, 37, of Commack, who wed her girlfriend Debbie, 44, in a ceremony in New York with an interfaith minister in 2000, a marriage that wasn’t recognized by the state.
The two met through mutual friends at a bridal shower held for another lesbian couple. They have two children, a girl and boy, ages 5 and 7, through a donor.
“We’re definitely going to do it,” Andrea tells the Press, of now legally tying the knot. “I [just] want to know what the impact is going to be because of the inconsistencies between the state and the federal law… Because it’s all well and good in New York State—which is definitely great and a huge step and I’m so appreciative—but if I leave the state and it doesn’t count, it doesn’t mean as much.”
Still, she explains, New York’s legalization holds special significance.
“It just validates it for my children,” she adds. “To me it’s always been more important for that reason, just because they see us as like every other family, but this way, they see that our government and our country and our law sees our family as important as everybody else’s.”
In Fire Island Pines and Cherry Grove, two GLBT enclaves on Fire Island, the news sparked spontaneous celebrations on what would normally have been a quiet weekend—many visitors and residents were destined for Manhattan to partake in the annual Gay Pride Parade that Saturday.
“You could kind of hear it house-by-house,” says Jay Pagano, president of the Fire Island Pines Property Owners Association, describing when the news broke late Friday night. “One house after the other kind of exploded with cheers and screams. And that went all night long.”
The next day, a huge “We Do!” banner was hung from one building downtown. “Cuomo for President” signs popped up all over the community as well.
“We see him as the person who got it done,” says Pagano, adding there were particular thanks to those four Republican state senators who voted their conscience.
For the Long Island GLBT Center’s Kilmnick, who along with other GLBT advocates will be hosting free weddings at the Carlyle on the Green at Bethpage State Park on July 26 (the first day gay couples can get married under the new law), the importance of the vote is unparalleled.
“Marriage equality is not a new toy that we go out and buy,” he says. “It’s a serious institution.”