By NICOLE GUGINO
OBSERVER Assistant News Editor
A little more than a year ago, the New York State Legislature passed the Marriage Equality Act, legalizing same-sex marriage. At the time many weighed in on either side of the issue. One year later the question is: Has anything changed?
Carol Anastosio and Mimi Brown, who were among the first couple to wed under gay marriage law, hold hands.
On July 24, 2011, many same-sex couples from Niagara Falls to New York City prepared to exchange vows to celebrate the passage of the landmark law.
At the time of the law's passage Gov. Andrew Cuomo expected the state to see revenues of $392 million in three years. However, according a recent Associated Press article the actual total revenues are harder to calculate than previously thought.
Town of Pomfret Clerk Roberta Valentine said she has issued some same-sex marriage certificates, but cannot tell the difference because the form is the same.
"The affidavit comes from the state. It used to say bride and groom but now it says bride, groom or spouse, they just altered it a little bit. On the affidavit now it just says 'signature' not 'bride signature' and 'groom signature' anymore," she explained.
She said after the law was passed last year the town of Pomfret issued 25 marriage licenses and up to now this year has issued 40, which is just about average.
"We had just about the same number at this time last year; 43 and in 2012 I issued 49. We are right on track. I have issued some same-sex licenses but I can't tell you how many," Valentine added.
The city of Dunkirk reported the number of marriage licenses has not risen over average since same-sex marriage was legalized. However, clerk Christine McGraw said, "you never really know when the public will come in."
According to New York state Department of Health figures, 3,424 same-sex couples were married in the past year outside of New York City.
Although the numbers of marriage licenses issued in Pomfret aren't soaring, the Rev. Theresa Kime of the Northern Chautauqua Unitarian Universalist Congregation said she has officiated at some same-sex ceremonies in the past year.
"I have officiated ceremonies for same-sex couples for many years. I did officiate several ceremonies this year. What is interesting is I was asked to officiate for several out-of-state couples, like from Pennsylvania, and one couple had been together for 30 years, another for around 15 years and there was a couple from New York who had been together for 20 years. It was really touching to see folks who have been committed and sustained their relationship be able to confirm that bond and have it be recognized.
"The difference is how couples who have been together and didn't just want a religious ceremony now can have both the religious and the legal It has been wonderful to see that equality."
There is still opposition to the law but some parishes are taking advantage of the protections for religious organizations under the law.
One example of this is the Trinity Episcopal Church in Fredonia. Although the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York, which has jurisdiction over the church allowed clerics to officiate same-sex ceremonies the day the law came into effect, Father Bob Arnold said he and his church have different ideas of marriage.
"Here at Trinity, or at least I, believe marriage is between a male and a female," he said in a phone interview.
Father Bob is not alone in his beliefs. Since New York state legalized same sex marriage no other state has done so.
North Carolina decided to go in the opposite direction and pass a law similar to the federal Defense of Marriage Act and restricting marriage to one man and one woman. Other states like Maine, Minnesota, Maryland and Washington will have a chance to vote on the issue in November.
However in May President Barack Obama went on record to say he supported same-sex couples' right to marry.
"At a certain point I've just concluded that for me, personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to marry," Obama said in a May 9 statement.
But federal action has not been taken and the policy defining marriage as between a man and a woman has not changed.
This means same-sex spouses must still file separate federal income tax forms, although their state forms can be filed jointly in New York state and the five other states allowing same-sex marriage.
Although the jury is still out on this issue, several national polls taken after Obama's statement showed the country was split almost evenly on the issue but many thought it was much less important than other problems facing the nation like the economy in the upcoming presidential race.
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