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Working to build bridges in Utah after N.Y. Legalizes Gay marriage

By Nkoyo Iyamba | Posted - Jun. 27, 2011 at 11:17 a.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Cheers and applause filled New York streets. Same sex couples celebrated the state's legalization of same sex marriage.

Here in Utah, members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community are also cheering but recognize the long road ahead to receive the same privileges here in the Beehive state.

"The residents in Utah are certainly celebrating with the long term committed couples in the state of New York," said Brandie Balken, Executive Director, Equality Utah. "Who now have access to the thousand plus privileges and responsibilities that are accorded by a legal marriage."

The residents in Utah are certainly celebrating with the long term committed couples in the state of New York.

–- Brandie Balken, Executive Director, Equality Utah

However, Balken said it will take an effort from each state across America to pass similar laws for LGBT communities. In Utah, Balken said residents are still fighting for basic civil rights.

"We are still seeing lack of access to fair opportunities in the most basic of human rights," said Balken. "Things like discimination in employment and housing or access to visiting the people they care most deeply about and they share a committed, loving longterm relationship with in hospital visitations."

In 2004, Utah voters approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as only between a man and a woman, which according to Balken means the gay community will focus on building bridges to help Utahns understand the needs of its LGBT community.

"Currently, residents of the state of Utah are being judged on characteristics and not on their ability to do the task in their employment or to pay the rent in their apartment," said Balken. "So those are fundamental issues of fairness."

I would have to say I was sad because it's not good for the common good. I think society and culture is at its peril.

–- Timothy Dolan, New York Archbishop

A majority of Utahns voted for that constitutional amendment, according to Balken which means Utah's LGBT community has a lot of work to do to make extending marriage privileges to the gay community a priority.

"Until the voters deem that marriage equality is something that they're ready for," said Balken. "I see the work that we're doing as building community and buildling understanding about the importance of equal access for all residents of our state."

While prominent leaders like New York Senator Charles Schumer (D) praised legislative efforts to legalize same-sex marriage, religious leaders like New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan wasn't celebrating. The New York Times reports Dolan said, "I would have to say I was sad because it's not good for the common good," the archbishop said. "I think society and culture is at its peril."

Others, like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), disapproved of New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's signing of the bill into law. Christie spoke Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" program.

"I believe marriage should be between one man and one woman," said Christie. "I wouldn't sign a bill like the one that was in New York."

Currently, New Jersey allows gay couples to form civil unions.

The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act essentially prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage.

Six of the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia now allow same-sex marriage: Iowa, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York.

Four states Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois and New Jersey have approved gay civil unions. But gay marriage is specifically banned in 39 states, including Utah.


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