Gay couples call on NY Senate to OK same-sex marriage

Thomas K. Duane

June 01, 2009

Newsday: Gay couples call on NY Senate to OK same-sex marriage


June 1, 2009

ALBANY - Fran DeBenedictis and Krista Jo Merget want to marry and raise their daughter with the same rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples.

The Lindenhurst women joined about 25 gay couples here Monday calling on the State Senate to adopt same-sex marriage. The Assembly passed legislation on May 12, and Gov. David A. Paterson has said he will sign a bill into law if it reaches his desk.

"We're a family and we aren't treated as such," said Merget as the couple's 3 ½-year-old daughter, Martha, played on the floor of the Legislative Office Building. "I believe marriage equality will happen. Women got the vote and slavery was abolished."

Merget, 52, and DeBenedictis, 56, said they had difficulty getting insurance coverage and won't be buried together in the cemetery of their choice because their 10 ½-year union isn't legally sanctioned. "We'd like to be recognized as a couple," said DeBenedictis, a retired New York City police detective.

Sen. Thomas Duane (D-Manhattan) and his partner, Louis Webre, cited similar difficulties. Duane is the primary sponsor of the same-sex marriage bill and Monday predicted passage before the legislative session ends on June 22.

"Already there are enough votes for it to pass and a cushion," said Duane, the only openly gay senator.

Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, who spoke to the couples, disagreed, saying the 32 votes needed for passage aren't in hand. He also repeated his vow not to bring the bill to the floor without first knowing it would be adopted.

"I don't have 32 votes that I know of," said Smith (D-St. Albans). However, "there are members, while they haven't changed their vote, are thinking about it," he said.

At least six Democratic senators oppose gay marriage, along with many Republicans.

Asked about Duane's prediction that the bill would be adopted, Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Queens) said, "He's dreaming."

Andrew Zwerin and Jeff Friedman, both of Rockville Centre, hope that's not the case. They married in October in California, days before voters there overturned same-sex marriage.

"New York State granted us the right to adopt our son," said Friedman, 41, referring to 5 1/2-year-old Joshua. "Why won't the state recognize us as a family in any capacity? Our son should be afforded the same rights and protections that other children receive."