Just over a month ago in making the case for a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman, President Bush said, “An amendment to the Constitution is necessary because activist courts have left our nation with no other choice.” Like the president, many other supporters of this gratuitous amendment believe it is necessary to prevent state courts from requiring their jurisdictions to accord same-sex unions the same status as traditional marriage.
Well, that argument became less compelling this morning when New York’s highest court ruled “that gay marriage is not allowed under state law.” In a statement, New York Governor George Pataki said, “I am also pleased that the court has reaffirmed that the Legislature is the appropriate branch of government to initiate and make any changes to existing law governing marriage.” He’s right; the legislature, rather than the courts, is the appropriate forum to decide such issues.
While gay groups are reacting in a juvenile manner with Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Joe Solmonese calling the court’s reasoning “archaic” and “rooted in ignorance,” they also seem to have heard the words of the Empire State’s Republican Governor. They are vowing to work with the state legislature. In a release a little less shrill than HRC’s, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) Executive Director Matt Foreman, for example, calls on the Democratic gubernatorial candidate and the State Assembly Speaker to take action.
Kudos to these two for looking to the elected state legislature to pass what they call “marriage equality” legislation. While Solomonese is right to cite the numerous child welfare and psychological organizations which support same-sex marriage, he’s wrong to fault the court for ignoring their findings. It is the job of courts to interpret the law, not set social policy.
it would be entirely appropriate, however, for advocates of gay marriage to present this social research (of the aforementioned groups) to elected legislators (and the people).
I would also hope that gay leaders in the Empire State would, as their neighbors in Connecticut, also consider civil unions which stand a greater chance of passage than does gay marriage. Perhaps they will find that proposal inadequate, but it does seem, from the polls I’ve seen, that there is a consensus building in a number of states in the Northeast and on the West Coast for state recognition of same-sex civil unions. State recognition of same-sex civil unions would be a big step in the right direction.
I’m not as upset by this decision as are many gay activists and organizations. I believe they have picked the wrong fora to make their case for gay marriage. They should be going to legislatures instead of courts.
Had New York’s Court of Appeals ruled in favor of gay marriage, the decision would have rallied gay marriage opponents and strengthened the case for a federal constitutional amendment. Now that argument is considerably weakened. And the option still remains for advocates of gay marriage to make their case before the legislature — and the people to whom the elected legislators are responsible.
Despite the unfortunate rhetoric of the releases of HRC and NGLTF, I am delighted to see that their leaders are now looking to these legislators to make that case. Let’s hope this defeat convinces them to spend more time promoting gay marriage in legislatures and other popular fora rather than in courts of law.
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com