March 4, 2004

Council Discusses Marriage Concerns

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In addition to approving several resolutions amending parts of the 2004 budget, the Common Council also heard from members of the community last night in the Common Council Chambers of City Hall.

Richard Livingston, a resident of the Town of Ithaca, spoke of his approval and concern for Mayor Carolyn A. Peterson’s recent announcement in support of same-sex marriages. In a press conference Monday, Peterson expressed the City of Ithaca’s support, but also clarified that because the city cannot legally approve a same-sex marriage licenses, the city will be forced to follow New York State policy and forward all applications for same-sex marriage licenses to the New York State Department of Health in Albany.

Livingston and his partner have participated in a commitment ceremony at a church, and are now seeking an official marriage license.

He said that many of the licenses that are completed at the local level are not approved by the Department of Health because same-sex couples are often not asked to pay the normal filing fee for a license or make sure that all of the necessary papers are signed.

According to Livingston, previously, “the city was sending [license requests] without a signature and without a date to Albany.” Livingston said that that he made sure that all of the necessary paperwork and fees were completed before filing his request.

“They were very respectful,” Livingston said of the employees handling his request for a license.

Last week, the mayor of New Paltz, New York, performed several marriages, and is facing legal action from the state because of his actions.

“I think its unfair that New Paltz’s mayor is standing alone,” Livingston said, and urged Mayor Peterson to take some sort of action.

Livingston said that while he has put himself on the wait list for a license in New Paltz, he doesn’t feel that he should have to travel to Canada or another state to obtain his license.

“Why can’t I keep my money in Ithaca?” Livingston asked.

“I know who I am now. I am a gay man and proud of it. I plan to have a big event,” he added.

Several Common Council members expressed their support of Livingston’s message, and urged him to take his fight to the state level.

Pamela Mackesey ’89 (D-1st ward) spoke of her support, and urged action.

“I for one am willing to engage myself … I think this is a very telling moment for this country,” she said.

“I hope history and basic human goodness will prevail,” she added.

Michael Taylor ’05 (D-4th ward) encouraged Livingston’s efforts.

“Don’t shut up. Please take your fight to the state level,” he said.

Livingston’s responded to this encouragement, “my feeling is that it does start here … my hope is that as elected officials, they [Common Council] will support me” he said.

“We can’t put it off on the state. It’s time to take the next step,” he added.

Livingston said he plans to take his message to the state level, and take legal action if necessary.

“Even if that means I have to start it here,” he said, “I am going to continue fighting for my rights.”

In other Common Council business, the Council heard from Lynne Cohen, co-proprietor of Fall Creek Pictures and Cinemapolis movie theaters, who spoke of her concern for the Cayuga Green project, which, if built as planned, would include a multiplex movie theater.

Michelle Berry ’92, grad (D-2nd ward) said that she would like to learn more about the situation Fall Creek Pictures and Cinemapolis movie theaters face.

“I want to get more information,” she said. “I want the success of your business.”

The Council also reviewed and approved a number of resolutions including a one calling for a transfer of funds for second quarter funding for the Southside Community Center. The resolution calls for the purchase of a used vehicle to be used as the Ithaca Fire Department’s Hazardous Materials Response Team Vehicle. The council also reviewed a resolution which would revise building zoning in the Waterfront Zoning District.

Archived article by Kate Cooper