How the NY Gay Marriage Bill Is Changing Latina Lives

Last week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a same-sex marriage bill into law, making NY the sixth state to permit this kind of union.  The bill, which was approved 33 to 29 in the state’s senate, is a long time coming for many gay couples and same-sex marriage advocates.

One Latina who was personally affected by last week’s passage is Puerto Rican Lillian Rivera, who works with LGBT youth in New York City.  Rivera’s marriage to her Mexican wife Elsa was not recognized in New York, though they were married in California in 2008 and got a civil union in New Jersey the same year.  Hopefully now, Rivera says, they will get married in New York as well.  The 39-year-old, who resides in New Jersey with her wife and baby daughter Olivia, spoke to recently about the act and what its passage means to her and her family.

What were you doing when the bill passed last week?

I was asleep because I have a two-year-old!  My wife was awake and she woke me up to let me know that it had passed because we had spent most of the evening watching the Senate session.  She was really excited and she said, ‘They passed it!  They passed it!’ 

How did you react?

I snapped out of my sleeping stupor – I was like ‘Yay!’  I had a feeling that it was finally going to happen.  I think it was just the moment.  I think folks who have worked and volunteered around marriage equality in New York have worked a long time and I think we had a lot of support – from the mayor of New York City to the governor who signed it immediately.  There were a lot of folks who were really pushing towards providing equality in New York.

What does the passage mean to you personally, for you and your family?

It’s definitely important for us to be able to validate our family before everyone – for our family commitment to be acknowledged.  It means a lot.  We have a two-year-old and we want her to grow in a world where rights are granted to everyone and all families are taken care of and acknowledged and supported and valued.

What, in your opinion, does this mean to the Latino community?

I think the same thing that it does for lots of communities in our nation.  I think Latinos have really strong family values and this movement in our country validates all of our families. It’s important that we increase the knowledge of how different our families are within the Latino community.  There are lots of gay and lesbian families and they deserve to be valued and recognized and protected as well.  I think it’s important to highlight that even though our family may look different than most Latino families, we carry the same values.