One day before California became the second state in the nation to legalize gay marriage, New York Governor David Paterson directed all state agencies to begin updating their regulations to recognize same-sex marriages that have been legally performed in Massachusetts, California, Canada and elsewhere.
According to The New York Times, Paterson issued the directive on May 14, less than 24 hours before the Supreme Court of California struck down that state's ban on gay marriage. The new rule in New York, which came from the governor's legal counsel, David Nocenti, tells state agencies that gay couples married outside the state "should be afforded the same recognition as any other legally performed union." The revisions to the code could cover more than 1,300 regulations in New York on everything from joint filing on tax returns to the transfer of fishing licenses between spouses.
Paterson delivered a videotaped message to gay community leaders at a dinner on May 17, in which he described the decision as "a strong step toward marriage equality." Gay-rights advocates and opponents both see the measure as the first step toward the state fully legalizing same-sex unions.
"Very shortly, there will be hundreds and hundreds and hundreds, and probably thousands and thousands and thousands of gay people who have their marriages recognized by the state," said Democratic Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell, who has pushed for legalization of gay unions, according to the paper.
For now, Massachusetts and California are the only states that have legalized gay marriage, though Connecticut, New Jersey, New Hampshire and Vermont allow civil unions. Forty-one other states have passed laws limiting marriage to unions between a man and a woman. It is expected that the new regulations in New York will take effect by mid-June, unless a court grants a stay.
Less than two weeks after the California Supreme Court ruling, California officials said Wednesday that same-sex couples could begin obtaining marriage licenses as soon as June 17, according to CNN. The state Department of Public Health has released new marriage license forms that have lines for "Party A" and "Party B."
Talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres and actress Portia de Rossi are one of the first celebrity couples planning to take advantage of the change in the law. During a show last Thursday, DeGeneres put presumptive Republican presidential candidate John McCain — an opponent of gay marriage — on the spot about his position on the controversial issue.
"Let's talk about it; let's talk about the big elephant in the room," DeGeneres said to McCain. The senator said he supported "legal agreements" between same-sex couples, but added the caveat, "We just have a disagreement, and I, along with many, many others, wish you every happiness."
"So, you'll walk me down the aisle?" DeGeneres asked the clearly uncomfortable McCain.
"Touché," he laughed.
DeGeneres had even more fun with the topic this week during a Wednesday show, when her guests were First Lady Laura Bush and recently wed daughter Jenna Bush Hager. "So, the ranch was a great place to get married. It looked like nobody could fly over and get pictures or bother you, really," DeGeneres said of the Bush family compound in Crawford, Texas, where Bush Hager was married.
"Yeah," Bush Hager replied, "that was really nice."
"So, can we borrow it for our wedding, can we get the ranch?" asked DeGeneres. While the first lady sat quietly and didn't respond, her daughter chimed in, "Sure."