The New York state prison system recently changed its regulations to allow inmates in same-sex marriages or civil unions conjugal visits from their partners, as well as a tweak that will allow inmates to visit their partners if they are terminally ill.
On the heels of last week's unprecedented, massive coalition in the state in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage in New York, the Empire State is showing its progressive attitude toward more tolerant laws for same-sex couples.
Former Gov. David Paterson changed prison policies in 2008 to recognize same-sex unions performed in states where they are legal, and the changes appeared in the state register this week. A prison spokesman, Peter Cutler, said they have been in the practice of granting furloughs for illness, and could not explain the delay in the rule changes' publication.
Cutler did not know of any prisoners in same-sex unions who had exercised their right to a conjugal visit (officially known as "family reunions"), he told the New York Daily News.
The New York state House, controlled by Democrats, has repeatedly passed the bill in favor of same-sex marriage, while the GOP-dominated Senate has struck it down. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, has repeatedly expressed his support for legal same-sex marriage in the state and is part of the new New Yorkers United for Marriage coalition.
New York Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, both Democrats, have made commercials for the Human Rights Campaign in support of same-sex marriage, and they are also part of the coalition.
Ross Levi, the executive director of Empire State Pride Agenda, told the Daily News that any progress in support of same-sex marriage is positive.
"The more the state is consistent with that status of law the better off we are," Levi said.