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Patricia Martinez: Living in a Snow Globe

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June 17, 2008

Patricia Martinez is a client in the New York Civil Liberties Union's case Martinez v. County of Monroe et al., in which the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, ruled that valid same-sex marriages performed outside the state are entitled to recognition in New York. In her contribution to the ACLU's online symposium in celebration of LGBT Pride, Patricia talks about how life has changed since the appeals court recognized her marriage to Lisa Ann Golden, and how seemingly small steps taken to advocate for equality can have a larger impact.

On February 1 of this year, we needed the fingers of only one hand to count the number of LGBT people we knew in our community. As a friend once put it, we were "nesters" who rarely left home and never, ever participated in our community.

But all of that changed when the Appellate Court, Fourth Department issued a ruling which requires recognition of our Canadian marriage here in New York State. Seemingly overnight we went from quiet, private people to virtual poster children for marriage equality in New York State. Since that day so many wonderful people have touched our lives that we couldn’t begin to list them all.

Lisa jokingly describes our life these days as "living in a snow globe." Just when things settle down a bit, something happens to shake the globe up again. Media feeding frenzies have arisen every time there is a new development.

First there was the ruling followed three weeks later by the county executive’s announcement that she would appeal the ruling. We attended two rallies in support ofmarriageequality outside the county offices one day. We were both amazed and humbled by the number of people — perfect strangers — who came up to us and thanked us for what we had done. We granted interviews to the local media explaining why we filed the suit, and why we were at the protest that day. We explained that, as taxpayers, we were tired of being relegated to second-class citizen status and that all we wanted was to be treated equally.

As part of the steering committee for Newly Wed In New York (which was a community celebration of the ruling), we attended the vow renewal ceremony as well as the community reception later that evening. A documentary crew from the LGBT channel LOGO accompanied us that night, to wrap up the filming that they had begun in early March for a program on commitment.

In early May the Court of Appeals declined (temporarily) to hear the case because there were smaller issues that hadn’t been completely decided before the county filed their appeal. At about that time, we were asked to be this year’s Grand Marshals at the Rochester Gay Pride Parade — the parade’s theme this year is Happily Ever After and, as we were told, it just made sense to have us there. We received special recognition at the Empire State Pride Agenda’s Annual Spring Dinner where, via previously recorded video, Governor David Paterson congratulated us, and revealed that he had instructed state agencies to begin recognizing legally solemnized same-sex marriages that originated outside the jurisdiction of New York State.

Everyplace we go, we are met with handshakes, hugs, congratulations, words of encouragement, and, sometimes, thunderous applause or standing ovations. Often we feel like we are outside a building, looking in on someone else’s lives, living through them.

We knew that our decision to pursue the lawsuit was an important decision with far-reaching implications, but we never imagined that we would make such an impact on so many people’s lives. It has been an experience of a lifetime to be a part of a landmark decision that may help to pave the way for full marriage equality in New York State. And with this impact, we have begun to feel a new sense of responsibility to our community, to do whatever we can to help educate and advocate for marriage equality. We’re no longer "nesters." We’re now activists, advocates, ambassadors.

We continue to try to spread the message that if two people like ourselves can accomplish so much toward marriage equality by simply taking one step out of our comfort zone, imagine what the LGBT community can accomplish as a whole, and individually, if each of us steps out of our comfort zone and does just one small thing to advance the cause of marriage equality for all of us.

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