Congratulations, LGBT inmates of the New York state penal system: you can now have conjugal visits with your partner, granted you two already have a same-sex marriage or civil union performed in another state. (On a somewhat more "down" note, they will also be able to go on leave when a partner is gravely ill, which I'm sure is a relief for those in the situation but still sad.) Oddly, though, the policy change is late, considering then-Gov. David Patterson ordered all New York agencies to recognize such out-of-state unions almost three years ago. Apparently they just didn't get around to it until now. Here's the Daily News reporting on a press conference given by Peter Cutler, spokesman for the Department of Correctional Services:
Cutler could not explain why it took so long for the regulation to be finalized in the Register, which lists recent rule-making activities by state agencies.
Cutler was unaware of any inmate in a same-sex relationship who has had a conjugal visit, known officially as family reunions.
That's not so much an explanation as it is a kind of shrug. And no one's actually taken advantage of the change yet. Regardless, the more acknowledgment of same-sex unions in New York, the better, considering Gov. Cuomo's upcoming push for marriage equality, which has never made it through the state Senate but which has been approved by the House and has the support of a majority of the population, according to recent polls.