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Top Attorneys: No Civil Unions for N.Y.

Top Attorneys: No Civil Unions for N.Y.

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New York state attorney general Eric Schneiderman and American Foundation for Equal Rights attorney Ted Olson joined forces for an op-ed in which they dismissed chatter about a civil unions 'compromise' for the state.

New York state attorney general Eric Schneiderman and American Foundation for Equal Rights attorney Ted Olson joined forces for an op-ed in which they dismissed chatter about a civil unions "compromise" for the state.

Schneiderman, a union-backed Democrat and former state senator, and Olson, a former solicitor general under President George W. Bush now arguing the case against Proposition 8, hail from different regions of the ideological spectrum, but they agree that civil unions represent a "second-class status" that would represent a legal setback for New York couples, as they have in neighboring New Jersey and other locations.

"Unlike the universally accepted concept of marriage, employers, businesses and individuals simply do not know how to treat civil unions," wrote Schneiderman and Olson in the New YorkDaily News on Monday. "Several states have experimented with these so-called compromise solutions and have already reached the conclusion that they just don't work."

Currently, no civil unions legislation is proposed in New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing to pass a marriage equality bill by June. While advocates insist that the civil unions option is off the table, the concept looms in the back of some minds because of a new civil unions law in Delaware, and the introduction of similar legislation this month in Rhode Island, where marriage equality failed to garner enough support in the legislature. National groups such as Freedom to Marry, part of the coalition working in New York, decried the decision to retreat from marriage in Rhode Island where, as in New York, same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions already are recognized.

In recent days, some have hinted that a civil unions bill would be an acceptable compromise for the Conservative Party of New York State, an influential player in some Republican races, which last week voted not to endorse any GOP lawmaker who supports marriage equality. On the other hand, other marriage equality opponents lobbying in New York, including the National Organization for Marriage and the Catholic Church, also oppose the civil unions proposal in Rhode Island.

On Monday, New York state senator Mark Grisanti, a previously undecided Republican who had been targeted by Lady Gaga, told Capital Tonight that he would vote against marriage equality "if it were to come up to a vote today," and he specifically cited misgivings about the word "marriage." Although no Republican senator publicly supports the marriage equality bill, their support is required in the chamber, where the measure failed in 2009.

The op-ed was not coordinated with the New Yorkers United for Marriage coalition, according to a spokesperson for Schneiderman. However, in light of the current context, it seems designed to squelch any emerging civil unions conversation.

"Proponents of same-sex marriage are only a few weeks into a new effort to pass a marriage equality bill in New York State by the end of this year's legislative session, and already there are opposing voices offering civil unions as a potential 'compromise,'" wrote Schneiderman and Olson. "As lawyers from both sides of the aisle who have been entrusted with pursuing the law on behalf of the public, we can agree that this is simply not an acceptable legal alternative."

Read the entire op-ed here.

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