Same-Sex Marriage: New York Wins, Westport Loses

Patty Strauss was a bit miffed last Sunday — the day same-sex marriage became legal in New York.

No, she emphasizes, she’s not opposed to 2 men or 2 women having their love sanctioned and affirmed by the Empire State.

Patty’s reaction was more practical:  As Westport’s town clerk, she knows we’ll lose hundreds of dollars each year in license fees.

From 2009 — when Connecticut legalized same-sex marriage — through June 30, 2011, Westport issued 102 same-sex licenses:  52 to female couples, 50 to males.

In that same period, 340 opposite-sex couples received marriage licenses here.

Westport town clerk Patty Strauss takes a pause from issuing same-sex marriage licenses to pore over some records.

The same-sex couples came from all over Connecticut, and beyond:  New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota, Texas, New Mexico and California.

“It’s been our pleasure to serve couples from New York who were happy to come here to be married,” Patty says.

I’m as glad as Patty that gay men and lesbians traveled to Westport from across the country to be married here.

But I wondered about those New Yorkers, and Jersey boys (and girls).  Why didn’t they just bop over to Greenwich?

Many did.  But, Patty says proudly, “Westport has a reputation of accommodating everyone, and making them feel very comfortable in the town clerk’s office.”

Patty has witnessed many marriages herself.  One memorable couple was married in the Town Hall lobby, and shared a beautiful cake with Patty’s staff.

The town clerk’s office is filled with photos, and beautiful thank-you notes.  A particularly poignant one came from a couple that had been together for 40 years, before legally marrying.

Justice of the peace Martha Aasen has also wed “quite a few” same-sex couples.

“The word got out that Town Hall extremely welcoming,” she says.  “Lots of places don’t offer same-day service.  But Patty has things ready in 20 minutes.”

Martha notes that our neighbor’s new law will have a dual effect on Westport.  New Yorkers will now stay home to be married — “unless they want a nice country wedding,” she says.

But we’ll also lose couples from other parts of the US, who may opt for a wedding in exciting New York City, rather than one in Connecticut.

Maybe that’s a way to solve the budget crisis in Washington:  legalize same-sex marriages everywhere.

“Mayor Bloomberg was right,” Patty says, ruing the budget she prepared in February — not knowing the New York legislature would soon deprive her of several hundred dollars in fees.  (A Connecticut marriage license costs $30.)

“He said that same-sex marriage is great for New York for many reasons, including the economy.  There are licenses, cakes, caterers.  We’ve benefited the past few years from New York not being as advanced as Connecticut.”

10 responses to “Same-Sex Marriage: New York Wins, Westport Loses

  1. Thank you for the article. I was unaware that same sex marriage had been instituted in the State of Connecticut. Having an Aunt in Pittsburgh who recently lost her partner, I have seen the economic malfeasance of the federal government when it comes to social security benefits to a same sex partner or spouse. I find it deplorable. This is regardless of whether they have been legally married in the various states. I realize strides have been made in this area of discrimination but tell that to my Aunt who is barely making it on her small pension.

  2. Same sex New Yorkers who got married in Connecticut still had no marriage ‘rights’ in New York. Now they will, including being able to file a joint state tax return. Until the feds hop on board, however, s/s married couples will still have to file individual 1040s.

    An interesting question: if the feds pass a same sex marriage law, will individual states be able to deny marriage privileges, especially by refusing to accept joint state tax returns?

    • Actually NY state did recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, they just didn’t allow them within the state borders. This made for a rather absurd policy and it is joyous that it is no more. I say this as a straight man with a wife and two children; I could see no possible reason to deny two people a similar union because they had those feelings toward people of the same gender, and why shouldn’t they have to be as miserable as the rest of us? (Ha Ha! Just had to say it!)

      • Indeed, David, gays have chosen odd battlefields: the military and marriage. Neither of which has much appeal to anyone.

  3. The Dude Abides

    With a GOP House, I am not sure you will have to worry about that for awhile. It is a good 10th amendment question that might eventually reach the Supreme Court i.e forget about it. On a sidebar, I am surprised more same sex partners, whether married or not, don’t just incorporate and funnel their paychecks into an entity that pays state taxes on a joint basis?? They could create their own 401K’s, have a joint health plan and the hell with the government.

    • If we are going to get the government out of the business of determining who can and can’t be married, the hands off policy should apply to polygamy and polyandry as well shouldn’t it?

      • The Dude Abides

        Certainly. But the issue here is more that the government (much like medical marijuana) keeps its big nose in it via benefits and enforcement of federal laws. I think the pattern will be for younger generations to opt out of social security and create their own retirement plans and thus, keeping Uncle Sam out of marriage, whether same sex, polygamy or polyandry, all together.

  4. Gay marriage in Westport—when I lived there, I knew a lot of people who would have gotten violent over that. So glad to see the progress and improvement.

  5. Adrien and I got our marriage license in Westport from Patty and were married weeks later. We live in DC but have family in Westport. Patty was wonderful and made the process a pleasure. How much you short girl? We’ll send a check!