Friday, July 07, 2006

Up and Down

For Gay Rights Movement, a Key Setback - New York Times

It's hard to ignore the pain I feel today in the wake of the ruling by the New York Court of Appeals. One state makes gay marriage an anomaly, but two could have meant a trend. And the Court's logic wasn't especially kind. Yes, if you pretend that the sole purpose of marriage today is child-rearing, and harp on the fact that straight couples are always theoretically at risk of having a child whether they want to or not, then there is a "rational basis" for offering marriage only to such couples. But that's quite a stretch.

There is a silver lining, though. If New York had allowed gay marriage through its court system, those who would quash equality in its infancy would have had another example of "activist judges" to harp on during the next election--coincidentally, in the state from which many Democrats expect our next standard-bearer to come. (That worked out well last time, didn't it?) Instead, as many others have already noted, this ruling will force advocates to press for a legislative solution. If New York's legislature approves gay marriage, or civil unions, after Eliot Spitzer becomes governor, and if in 2008 the people of Massachusetts reject the move to end gay marriage there, well, that would make this a whole new ballgame, wouldn't it? A suddenly sizeable chunk of the country would have put gay marriage (or something like it) before the people or their representatives and seen it as a good thing. Remember, California's legislature has already voted for gay equality; we have only Arnold to blame for its not having taken root there. Connecticut's legislature passed civil unions without any judicial prompting. Between those two, Massachusetts, and New York, you've got quite a lot of the nation's population, and a good deal of its financial and cranial power as well.

I still believe that, by the time I retire, I will have the legal option of marrying the man I love, of filing my taxes with him, of knowing that if one of us is in the hospital, the other will be able to visit, and that if one of us should die, the other would inherit everything, collect Social Security as a surviving spouse, and carry out the other's final wishes. Whether yesterday's ruling in New York makes it more likely that this will happen when I'm 42 or 58 is debateable, surely. But it will happen.

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