Long Island same-sex couples seek gay-friendly town clerks
March 06 2004 1:00 AM ET
The battle over same-sex marriages moved Friday to Long Island, N.Y., where about 50 gay and lesbian couples rode from city to city in search of a town clerk willing to issue them marriage licenses. "Shame! Shame!" they chanted at one stop after the clerk read a statement reaffirming the edict by state attorney general Eliot Spitzer that gay marriages are not allowed in New York. Their first stop was at Babylon Town Hall, where a horn-honking caravan led by a brightly painted bus arrived Friday morning. Sheree Jeanes, 33, and Bonnie Reich, 42, of Huntington, entered the clerk's office only to receive a one-page statement shooting down their marriage plans. "We're disappointed," Jeanes said. "We want the same rights as any other couple, and we feel that we deserve that." Her partner said they would join any legal action taken to help their cause.
David Kilmnick, a spokesman for the Long Island Coalition for Same Sex Marriage, conceded that it was unlikely the gay couples would be granted marriage licenses. But, he said, the refusals would lay the groundwork for lawsuits. "It's not discouraging," Kilmnick said of Spitzer's pronouncement on Wednesday that gay marriage violates state law. "It's another hurdle that we have to jump over. He left it to the courts, so we're going to bring it to the courts to decide."
The would-be newlyweds then moved on to the Brookhaven and Islip town halls. Their reception at Brookhaven was similar to the Babylon stop, with the clerk issuing no licenses. Eventually the caravan was to split up and couples were to visit other municipalities across the 120-mile long island. Both sides on the polarizing issue had been awaiting Spitzer's opinion since February 27, when the mayor of New Paltz, a college town 75 miles north of Manhattan, married 25 same-sex couples. New Paltz mayor Jason West now faces 19 criminal counts and could face jail time; he has pleaded innocent.
On Thursday, dozens of same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses were turned away from the New York City clerk's office with a letter explaining that gay marriages are illegal. "New York state law," the clerk's letter said, "does not authorize this office to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples."