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Prepared to Sue for Same-Sex Marriage

This is a partial transcript from On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, March 3, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.

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GRETA VAN SUSTEREN: The Utah Senate has just approved a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage (search). This comes just hours after the Mayor Jason West (search) of New Paltz, New York, pled not guilty to 19 misdemeanors for marrying same-sex couples without marriage licenses.

Our next guest is the mayor of another small New York town fighting for same-sex marriage, but he has a different plan and a different reason.

Joining us is the mayor of Nyack, New York, John Shields, and his partner Bob Streams. Welcome to both of you.

MAYOR JOHN SHIELDS, NYACK, NEW YORK: Good evening. How are you tonight?

VAN SUSTEREN: Very well.

Mayor, first, I mentioned that Utah has banned same-sex marriage. What's your reaction to that tonight?

SHIELDS: It's very unfortunate the government thinks it can interfere in people's lives because I look upon relationships between people as something that people decide between themselves, and I think the government has no business interfering into it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Bob, you and the mayor seek to marry. How will it change your relationship if you're married?

BOB STREAMS, JOHN SHIELDS' PARTNER: Honestly, I don't think it's going to change our personal relationship much at all, but what I do think is that we're going to now have rights that we didn't have before.

VAN SUSTEREN: Give me an idea. I mean, what are the rights that you really want, Bob, that you don't have now with the mayor?

STREAMS: Well, tax breaks for one thing. That's something that we don't get now. The other thing would be if one of us were to get into an accident for any reason and end up in, say, ICU, because I'm not a blood relative and neither is he, we wouldn't be able to come in and see each other. I mean that's kind of ridiculous.

VAN SUSTEREN: Mayor, how long have you and Bob been partners?

SHIELDS: One year.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. And are you ready to marry someone after one year? You know, even non same-sex couples sometimes wait a little longer than that.

SHIELDS: And sometimes they wait a little less than that, so I think...

VAN SUSTEREN: And, indeed, they do.

SHIELDS: I think that's a personal decision.

VAN SUSTEREN: Indeed, they do. Mayor, you have a different plan. Rather than push the criminal issue, like the mayor the New Paltz is going to, what is your plan?

SHIELDS: OK. My plan is become a plaintiff in a suit against the local government. I plan to assemble a group of couples tomorrow, go to the town of Orangetown, who is issuing agent for licenses in my town, and, if the clerk refuses to give us marriage licenses, then we're ready to press a lawsuit against that town.

My plan is that we should go through the court system, we should do this in a legal way, and that what's really important is the long-range goal of legalizing same-sex unions, and, by going through the court system and getting a court decision I think this is the best to do it.

Eliot Spitzer today was saying that this has to go through the court system, and there are questions of equal rights, and that was his position today, even though he came out and said currently the law is against these marriages. He did kind of leave the door open, which is what gave me the idea, that we should pursue this through the court system.

VAN SUSTEREN: And when you mention Eliot Spitzer, that is the state attorney general of New York who said that same-sex marriage is illegal under New York, although, interestingly enough, he said that -- you know, that he supports them, but it's his job to follow the law.

Mayor, how will this change your life if you can marry instead of the current relationship you have?

SHIELDS: For me, I think it's more emotional. I think it says to me finally that, for the first time in my life, I am equal to every other member in society.

I was raised at a time and place where one felt a second-class citizen being gay, and I think that forcing this issue shows people that -- to the world we are equal citizens under the law.

I do not subscribe to separate but equal for any group in our society, and all of my life I have fought against racism, sexism, and now against heterosexism.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, gentlemen. Thank you very much. We're all going to be watching this issue. It certainly is an issue everybody's talking about across the country. Thank you both.

SHIELDS: Thank you very much.

STREAMS: Thank you.

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