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Let Us Eat

Times are tough for Hunger Action Network of New York State.

Dwindling state and federal funding and an ever-more competitive grant market have led to a number of personnel and program cuts over the past few years at one of New York’s largest statewide anti-hunger groups. With Hunger Action finding itself more reliant on volunteers and individual donations, its executive director, Mark Dunlea, is hoping for a big turnout at the group’s annual fund-raising event, Feast for Famine, taking place at 5:30 PM Wednesday (May 25) at the Egg in Empire State Plaza.

“Not only is it a good fund-raising event for us, but a great networking event where we hope to interest potential volunteers in our program,” Dunlea said. “In terms of volunteering, we have everything from hands-on work where people can go and help with the gardens, but we’re also looking for people to come into the office and help, from data entry [to] stuffing envelopes.”

Feast for Famine will offer food and beverage samples from more than two dozen restaurants and microbreweries in the area. The event is cosponsored by CSEA, Public Employees Federation, Albany Public School Teachers Association, and NYS Nurses Association, along with the Times Union, Troy Record, FLY92 and Metroland.

Dunlea said Hunger Action Network uses the funds from the event to support—through legislative lobbying or directly through various hunger and nutrition programs—the 40,000 individuals who use food pantries locally each month. Founded in 1982, Hunger Action Network is a statewide membership organization of direct food providers, advocates and other individuals trying to end hunger and its root causes, including poverty, throughout New York state.

—Travis Durfee

Mass Marriage

Couples were overcome with joy, many clearly moved by the magnitude of being in the first wave of Americans to be legally granted marriage licenses as same-sex couples. Many had never let themselves believe their day would come, but on Monday (May 17), more than 1,000 same-sex couples got marriage licenses in Massachusetts.

In Cambridge, where some 250 couples had lined up overnight, the doors to City Hall opened just after midnight so the paperwork could start. The sloping lawn outside City Hall was filled with exuberant supporters there to witness the historic events; protesters were largely absent. Inside, the banister was draped with white tulle and cake was laid out in the City Council’s chambers to accentuate the matrimonial atmosphere.

After getting licenses, many couples went directly to probate courts to obtain waivers letting them circumvent the normal three-day waiting period before exchanging vows.

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who opposes same-sex marriage, warned clerks they would face legal action if they licensed couples who are not from Massachusetts, citing a 1913 law prohibiting the licensing couples if the marriage would not be legal in their home state. But clerks in Worcester, Springfield, Provincetown and Somerville are defying the governor and issuing licenses to any couple asking. Romney is seeking an injunction against the clerks from those locales and has requested copies of all licenses issued there. The first couple who were married in Williamstown are from Canaan, N.Y.; those newlyweds hope to relocate to Massachusetts.

Romney wrote all governors and attorneys general in the country, saying Massachusetts would not marry couples from other states unless states provided with a statement that the marriage would be legal in the home state. Last week, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer’s office sent Romney his informal opinion from March, part of which stated that marriages and unions performed elsewhere would likely be legal in New York. On Monday, Connecticut’s and Rhode Island’s attorneys general issued opinions echoing Spitzer’s.

But those opinions do not afford the marriages ironclad legal status in states like New York, where same-sex marriage is not explicitly illegal. Legislation or judicial verdicts are still necessary.

“Ultimately these issues are going to be determined in courts in New York,” said Mark Violette, a spokesperson for Spitzer’s office. “There’s a presumption under New York law,” Violette added, “that we in New York recognize legal marriages performed in other states, even though we may not have the same form of marriage in our state.”

Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court ruled in November that same-sex couples have the right to marry. After deadlock and debate, the Massachusetts Legislature is working on a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage while legalizing civil unions. The earliest the amendment would be put to the state’s voters is 2006, though many couples will be married before then. In the meantime, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is the first place where same-sex couples can marry in America, making our nation one of four countries in the world where it is legal.

—Ashley Hahn

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