July 1, 2011


Hope, concern on gay marriage law

Supporters march to celebrate legalization

LawBob Ellis/staff photographer
Partners Jim Lawson and Joaquin Rivera, of Cortland, hold hands as they march Thursday afternoon with supporters to the office of the Cortland Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center on Central Avenue.

Staff Reporter

Cortland couple Jim Lawson and Joaquin Rivera walked hand-in-hand down Main Street on Thursday, smiling as they celebrated a state law passed last week legalizing same-sex marriage.
“We’re looking for equality,” Lawson said. “It’s about equal rights. Liberty and justice for all, it’s that simple.”
About 30 people joined Lawson and Rivera for a walk from Main Street to the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center on Central Avenue.
The state Senate voted 33-29 last Friday to legalize same-sex marriage, making New York the sixth state to approve same-sex marriage. The Assembly had previously approved the bill and Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed it into law Friday night.
“It has passed, don’t look back,” the marchers chanted Thursday as they walked toward the resource center.
Lawson and Rivera have been together for about six months. While they do not have plans to get married as of yet, they say they are happy they now have a choice.
Lawson said he was worried there would be an effort to overturn same-sex marriage rights in New York state. In 2008, voters in California overturned same-sex marriage through Proposition 8. Last year, a judge determined Proposition 8 was unconstitutional.
“I just hope it won’t be revoked,” Lawson said. “I have this feeling that it might be taken away from us.”
Bea Sprague walked with the group. She said she has friends in the LGBT community and that she is proud to support them.
“I’m happy that this will bring equal rights for all people to marry,” Sprague said. “This is a very big thing. Everyone should be able to get married in their own state.”
Other walkers included Stephenie Bintz and David Bitterbaum, who took part in the event to show their support for the same-sex marriage bill.
“My first thought was that I am proud of my state for doing this in the name of equality,” Bitterbaum said.
Jan Simpson and Kim Barhite have been together for almost 14 years and say they are essentially a married couple, raising two children together, Matthew, 17, and Nicholas, 15.
Simpson and Barhite pondered going to another state or across the border to get married, but they wanted to have their friends and family attend their wedding.
They said they had doubts over the years about whether the state would ever pass a same sex-marriage bill. In 2007 and 2009, the state Assembly passed same-sex marriage bills before the legislation stalled in the state Senate.
Simpson and Barhite said they’ve received more than 100 messages from friends, family members and others in the community who were excited for them.
They’ve picked Oct. 16, 2012, for their wedding, the date of their 15th anniversary and the beginning of their life as a legally married couple.
The rest of the wedding plans, they say, are still being decided.
“We haven’t planned because it wasn’t legal,” Barhite said. “We’re just starting the planning phase. We’ve been waiting a long, long time to do this.”
While there might be some details to hash out, the couple says they are happy New York has become the sixth, and largest, state to legalize same-sex marriage.
“We’re thrilled,” Simpson said. “It’s awesome. We’re just really excited.”

To read this article and more, pick up today's Cortland Standard
Click here to subscribe