2010: New York state senator Frank Padavan is one of the most anti-marriage equality lawmakers in Albany. He’s out-of-touch and woefully behind on this, a should-be-no-brainer issue that’s inevitably going to go the way of equality, holding a position on this civil marriage matter that not only violates the deserved rights of gay New Yorkers, but also thumbs its nose at the demands of the 14th Amendment. Gays and their ring fingers are the hot nuptial issue of the day — Padavan is a firm no.
Well now, if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to take you on a journey back in time. Picture it: February of 1974. Patty Hearst’s story is gripping a pre-bicentennial nation. “The Way We Were” is a hit on the pop charts. Cher has just divorced Sonny Bono. And a 39-year-old Frank Padavan has been in the state Senate for a little over a year, when another kind of marriage bill comes before him. The big marriage issue back then? Whether or not gender discrimination should be removed from the state’s alimony laws, so that the post-divorce provisions are based on ability to pay and other situational realities, not penis possession. The New York senate is tasked with casting a vote.
Now, it sounds bizarre to modern ears that this sort of thing was even up for debate. That’s probably because in 1979, the Supreme Court weighed in on this matter in the legendary case of Orr v. Orr, which determined once and for all that wives-only laws violated Equal Protection (duh!). Since we’ve all lived in three decades of an America that’s been free of this form of marital (or post-marital) discrimination, we’ve just come to accept it as the norm. It’s just such an obviously fair thing.
And the thing is? It was also pretty damn obvious to the majority of the New York State Senate in 1974. In fact, when the matter was presented to that Watergate era body, fifty-five of them had the foresight to see the way history was headed and the fortitude to beat the court to the punch. Only three senators did not: John J. Marchi of Staten Island (R). E. Schermerhorn of Orange County (R). And…
…wait for it, wait for it…
…FRANK PADAVAN of QUEENS (R):
Then. Now. Why?
District 11 New Yorkers of 2010: You have another option. His name is Tony Avella. He supports marriage equality. Give him a fair look.
All New Yorkers of 2041: Yes, this gay marriage thing was seriously a conversation we had to have in this state in the year 2010. I know, right?!