Monday, July 10, 2006

Setback for marriage justice

Editorial in today's Los Angeles Times
Setback for marriage justice
New York and Georgia courts will be on the wrong side of history of gay marriage.
July 10, 2006

THE HIGHEST COURTS of New York and Georgia last week moved in the opposite direction of history and justice on same-sex marriage. By a 4-2 vote, the New York Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that the state Legislature's limitation of marriage to heterosexual couples was a "long-accepted restriction" not based solely on "ignorance and prejudice against homosexuals."

Adding insult to injury, an opinion signed by three of the judges in the majority ruled that it was rational for the Legislature to ban same-sex marriage in the interests of protecting children. Noting that "an important function of marriage is to create more stability and permanence in the relationships that cause children to be born," Judge Robert S. Smith wrote that the state could "offer an inducement — in the form of marriage and its attendant benefits — to opposite-sex couples who make a solemn, long-term commitment to each other."

Never mind that childless heterosexual couples also receive legal benefits from civil marriage — or that many gay couples are raising children.

The Georgia Supreme Court decision, also handed down Thursday, was narrower but still disappointing. The court rejected technical objections to a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage that was approved by state voters in 2004.Neither of these decisions is binding on the courts of other states, any more than was the famous 2003 ruling by Massachusetts' high court that gay marriage couldn't be prohibited.

So there's still hope that California's Supreme Court will take a more enlightened view of the issue when it next hears a challenge to heterosexual monopoly on civil marriage. Advocates of same-sex marriage have turned to the state courts since Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's ill-advised veto of a same-sex-marriage bill last year, but hopefully the Legislature will keep trying. Gay-rights activists shouldn't underestimate the challenge ahead.

In Georgia, the ban on same-sex marriages upheld last week passed with 76% of the vote. Meanwhile, even politicians who support gay rights consider it political suicide to mention the M-word. And conservatives continue to score points with the fallacious argument that legalizing same-sex marriage would make heterosexual marriage less attractive or, even more absurdly, damage the religious sacrament of matrimony.

It took the Supreme Court until 1967 — 1967! — to strike down odiously racist anti-miscegenation laws. Someday we'll look back on the anti-gay-marriage hysteria with the same revulsion. Until then, with a high court seemingly disinclined to address marriage, states such as California should take the lead.


John Gibson said...

Much as I hate to say it, we might be better off were this matter to be left to legislatures, recognizing that few of them are apt to do the right thing. New York's may well; California's already has, but the pickings get pretty slim after that. But the 'pubs are killing us with this "activist judges" rubbish and they've used it to pass really, really hateful stuff through the voter initiative process in several states.

The point about the Loving (miscegenation) opinion is well-taken. It was over a hundred years after the Civil War before the Court finally got around to striking down these laws in the handful of states that still had them (I think it was 12 or 13). Social change takes a long, long time, much as we wish it didn't always.

By the way, none of this should stop the Episcopal Church!

Renee in Ohio said...

Sorry to hear about that. It's such a frustrating, maddeningly complex situation to deal with--I tend to be an introvert, and I certainly don't walk up to people and talk about politics, but we did what we could to oppose the so-called "same-sex marriage ban" amendment in Ohio.

And on election day, there I was in line with a woman who wanted to vote for "man-woman marriage". To my surprise, I started hearing words coming out of *my* mouth, explaining that we already *had* "man-woman marriage" laws, and that many prominent conservatives, who *opposed* same-sex marriage, also opposed the amendment.

But the woman just kept perseverating on the man-woman marriage thing, and the previously unprecedented display of chutzpah on my part was for naught.

Things have to change--and as you mention, things eventually do change. But sometimes I'm really taken aback at the strong reactions people have on this issue. Marriage is their "shiny thing" (I'm thinking Cat in Red Dwarf here) and you'd better not mess with it.

I posted what +KJS said about separating civil and religious marriage in her recent interview on Oregon Public Broadcasting, and there was quite a lot of discussion that followed. If you're interested, the diaries are here and here.

DF in Massachusetts said...

Obviously, equal marriage is a hot topic here in Massachusetts as we are the only state in the country right now that has it.

Everyone should know that we achieved equal marriage in Massachusetts in large part due to the efforts of The Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry.

The RCFM position has been simple and consistent since its founding a long time ago... equal marriage is a human right and an issue of justice, limiting same-sex couples to civil unions is seperate and unequal and unjust.

We are in a precarious situation today in Massachusetts. Conservative forces within the Commonwealth, heavily funded and organized by right-wing groups outside of the Commonwealth (and receiving enormous backing from the Roman Catholic Church), are striving to enshrine in our constitution a ban on equal marriage and to make invalid the legal marriages of thousands of lesbian and gay couples. A constitutional convention convenes tomorrow to vote on whether or not the people will be given the opportunity to vote on an amendment to our constitution that bans equal marriage. Many of us will be at the State House tomorrow to be a visible witness that people of faith are supporting equal marriage and opposed to enshrining discrimination in our constitution. Please keep all of us in your prayers.

I'll try to get some good pictures of Episcopalians at the State House and post those for sharing.

You're also more than welcome to hop a red-eye from the West Coast and join us at the State House tomorrow at 8am! Government Center is just a 10 minute ride by subway from the airport ;-)

Mike in Texas said...

There is an interesting take on the MA decision in the July 7 NY Post.

SUPPORTERS of gay marriage won a resounding victory yesterday - even if they don't know it yet.


Much was already being made yesterday of this passage from Smith: "[Gay] couples can become parents by adoption, or by artificial insemination or other technological marvels, but they do not become parents as a result of accident or impulse. The Legislature could find that unstable relationships between people of the opposite sex present a greater danger tha[n] children will be born into or grow up in unstable homes than is the case with same-sex couples, and thus that promoting stability in opposite sex relationships will help children more."

Got that? Because non-gays are more likely to procreate by accident (oops!), they're more in need of the benefits of marriage. That's almost certainly a first in the great gay-marriage debate - an assertion that gays are too responsible.

.... and more


inked said...

Gays at Globe told to marry or lose benefits
By Jesse Noyes
Saturday, July 8, 2006 - Updated: 11:09 AM EST

Memo to Boston Globe gay and lesbian Guild employees: Get married or lose your domestic partner benefits.

Globe staffers have been told that health and dental benefits for gay employees’ domestic partners are being discontinued. Gay couples who want to keep their benefits must marry by Jan. 1.

A memo sent to the Globe’s Boston Newspaper Guild members, and obtained by the Herald, states that Massachusetts gay Guild employees can extend their benefits to their partners only if they marry.

“An employee who currently covers a same-sex domestic partner as a dependent will have to marry his or her partner by Jan. 1 for the employee benefits coverage to continue at the employee rates,” the memo states.

The policy change at the Globe, which devotes extensive coverage to gay issues, opens a new can of worms in the Bay State as employers rethink their domestic partner benefits in the wake of the legalization of gay marriage in 2004.

read it all:

Is this a set back or a natural though unanticipated freedom legality issue?

Lorian said...

Inked, I think it is absolutely right -- not a setback of any kind. If unmarried partners of straight people cannot be covered, and if marriage is available to gays, then the rules should be the same for everyone. No one is asking for special favors, here.