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California Bliss

Why an L.A. same-sex marriage will matter in New York.

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The day we tied the knot, three years ago, City Hall was crowded with brides and grooms waiting their turn in the municipal chapel. But we, two grooms, were there for a domestic partnership, and our only officiant was the brusque woman who took our money. I called us “as married as gays can be in New York,” and at the time, it was true. Later, I recount our vague nuptials for a friend. “So basically,” she replied, “it’s like getting a parking permit.” Well, yes. But now things are looking better here—thanks to the California Supreme Court.

Although New York’s top court, the Court of Appeals, ruled against same-sex marriages in 2006, three months ago, an appellate court in western New York said that New York State must respect valid marriages performed elsewhere. On May 6, the Court of Appeals let that ruling stand, meaning current law says that while I can’t get married in New York, if I get married someplace else, it’s binding here. Canada, Spain, Belgium, and Holland will all let me get married, except that other than Canada, those countries require residency for a marriage to be valid. And Massachusetts quickly tightened its 2004 welcome policy, dredging up an old law stating that if you can’t get married legally in your state, you can’t do it in theirs. It’s a great little trick: New York will honor my Spanish, Belgian, Dutch, or Bostonian wedding, but Spain, Belgium, Holland, and Boston will only let me be legally married if I live there, not in New York. But California has no residency requirement. I can live here, get married there, and still have it count when I land at JFK.

This will mean more travel for Jay Blotcher. He and his partner, Brook Garrett, got a domestic partnership at City Hall in 2000. Then they were civilly united on a hillside in Vermont during the foliage season that year—a step up from the grotty City Hall registration but carrying no weight on this side of Lake Champlain. Their last wedding was in New Paltz, where their participation in Mayor Jason West’s mass-marriage event of 2004 got them on CNN but no more formally wed. “It’s a marriage marathon,” says Blotcher. “And California is next.” Blotcher and Garrett are planning a trip to Santa Monica for sometime after June 14, when the California ruling takes effect.

But Alan Van Capelle, executive director of Empire State Pride Agenda, is still going to wait for a legal New York wedding, which he thinks could happen within a year. “It’s terrific they’re doing it in California,” Van Capelle says. “But I love this state so much, I think it owes me a marriage license.”

I’m with him. And a parking permit would be nice, too.

Have good intel? Send tips to intel@nymag.com.


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