Is New York Next?

New York’s Missing Civil Right

New York State, as Mayor Michael Bloomberg observed on Thursday, is where Susan B. Anthony began her struggle for women’s suffrage. It is the state where the N.A.A.C.P. was founded. Now New York can finally honor its historic commitment to personal freedoms by becoming the next state to end discrimination against civil marriage for same-sex couples.

On Thursday, as he reintroduced a bill that will give same-sex couples the right to marry, New York’s governor, David Paterson, issued an appeal at once personal and universal. Mr. Paterson, the state’s first black governor, compared the fight for same-sex marriage to the battle to end slavery and discrimination. “Anyone who has ever faced intolerance of any kind,” he said, “knows the solemn importance of protecting the rights of all people.” And he reminded listeners that gay couples are often denied health benefits, the right to visit loved ones in the hospital and spousal rights to inherit property. What could be even more important was his response to New York’s new archbishop, Timothy Dolan, who said Wednesday that he would speak out against same-sex marriage. “This is a civil government,” the governor — who is Catholic — said. He is right. Religious organizations can make rules for marriage, but the state is separate and must treat people equally under the law.

Mr. Paterson had plenty of supporters lined up with him at the announcement — Mayor Bloomberg, Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and other members of Congress, union representatives and gay rights advocates. It will take hard work from all — especially Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Schumer — to get this essential legislation passed. They need to press the State Senate hard, with Mr. Schumer coaxing fellow Democrats and the mayor convincing his Republican allies.

The Assembly is expected to pass the measure easily, but some advocates of same-sex marriage have said they want Albany’s legislators to make sure they can win before the Senate votes. Knowing the outcome in advance is the way law is usually made in Albany. But, as Mr. Bloomberg argued, “that is not democracy.” It’s time for Albany’s backroom specialists to allow full debates and real votes on whether thousands of New Yorkers should be allowed this basic right.