What a historic day!
I couldn't be more thrilled that, thanks to extraordinary grassroots activism and the hard work of Governor Cuomo and so many committed organizations and elected officials, New York has once again led the way on equality.
Last night's vote for marriage equality in N.Y. was a true bipartisan effort, with Democratic and Republican state senators coming together to forge a pro-equality majority in support of the simple proposition that every New Yorker should be able to marry the person they love.
But our work is not done.
The fact is that once our LGBT friends and family are legally able to marry here in New York, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) will prohibit them from enjoying over 1,000 federal rights and privileges that are afforded straight married couples.
That's why earlier this year, I joined Senator Feinstein and several of my Senate colleagues to co-sponsor the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill that will repeal the regressive and discriminatory DOMA.
It's also why I've joined with Democracy For America (DFA) to launch a national online campaign to rally support for repeal. For only once every legally married couple in the United States is treated equally under federal law can we fulfill the true meaning of marriage equality.
I hope you'll join us.
The Defense of Marriage Act truly is damaging. Every day, thousands of legally married LGBT men and women around the country are unable to take advantage of rights and privileges -- from hospital visitation to inheritance rights to health benefits -- that straight married couples take for granted.
Like DFA member Florence of Brushton, N.Y., who sent in her story of how DOMA has impacted her:
My late partner and I were as close to a legal married couple as we could get in the state of New York. We were together for 32 1/2 years, hoping to one day marry in our state. She died in 2006. I am not considered to be her widow. I am not considered to be legally related to her at all, even though we shared our lives completely for over 32 years. It's time to repeal DOMA.
Or Leigh from Durham, N.C.:
My partner and I have been together for 18 years. We are raising our four boys (ages 11, 10, 10 and 2) together. Not having marriage rights hurts our family every day.
Or Bernie from Port St. Lucie, FL:
My partner and I have been together for 35 years, raised two sons and were officially married in Massachusetts in 2009. We both served in the military during the Vietnam War. We deserve the same rights as everyone else.
For the sake of Florence, Leigh and Bernie and the millions of LGBT Americans around the country, we must end this unjust policy. But much like the historic vote last night in New York, it's going to take a lot of hard work and our collective grassroots advocacy. And I believe it's going to take telling more of the stories of those who experience the injustices of DOMA every day.
So, if you've been impacted by DOMA, please go to repealDOMA.com to sign the petition and tell us your own story or that of someone you know. It's imperative that we begin to put faces and names to this discriminatory policy. Only then will we truly be able to change hearts and minds, both among my colleagues in Congress and around the country.
We did it with "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and we'll do it with DOMA. The time to start is now.
Thank you for standing with me and DFA for equality for all Americans.
Follow Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SenGillibrand