The New York Court of Appeals ruled this morning that the state Constitution does not guarantee a right to marriage for same-sex couples, and that state lawmakers, not the courts, are better suited to consider the issue.
In a decision that has been eagerly awaited by both sides in the gay marriage debate, the court, the highest in the state's judiciary system, concluded that the legislature could have "a rational basis" for limiting marriage to heterosexual couples, in large part because of their ability to bear children.
The court did not rule that the state should not or could not allow gay marriages, only that the state constitution did not require that it allow them.
I'm generally not conservative when it comes to strategies for legalizing same-sex marriage, I am a firm believer in multiple strategies followed simultaneously-- the "civil union" folks and the "marriage or nothing" people both have arguments that make sense to me, although often it depends on where they are mobilizing.
Although I do take very serious issue with their pretty bogus assertions about marriage and children.
First, the court said, marriage could be preserved as an "inducement" to heterosexual couples to remain in stable, long-term, and child-bearing relationships. Second, lawmakers could rationally conclude that "it is better, other things being equal, for children to grow up with both a mother and the father."For starters, modern heterosexual marriage isn't just about children anymore. Also, most child development experts agree that children do not "need" both a mother and a father as much as they need a family to love and nuture them in a healthy, supportive environment, which is not something that heterosexuals automatically provide just by being a male-female couple or being biological parents. There are many kinds of families and children can grow and thrive in many different environments other than the nuclear family.
"Intuition and experience suggest that a child benefits from having before his or her eyes, every day, living models of what both a man and a woman are like," the court said.
It's a real blind spot for a lot of people when it comes to talking about marriage and children-- there are A LOT of parents out there who have no business raising children and it has nothing to do with their sexuality. It's not as if Child Protective Services was established to help the children of same-sex couples. All things being equal, I think it is also "intution" that a child raised by a happy same-sex couple who worked really hard to have them is better off than a child who is raised by abusive parents in a miserable marriage. Which child is going to grow up with a healthy idea about what marriage and family is about?
Overall, I think it's probably a good ruling in the long term, especially as it relates to the 2006 elections. Considering that New York is one of the few states at the top of the list that *could* legalize same-sex marriage via the legislature, so it doesn't bother me that it wasn't done by "activist judges." I'd much rather see them either legalize marriage or pass Vermont and Connecticut-style civil unions. In any struggle for equality and civil rights there are advances and set-backs, I personally think this is a pretty minor set-back.