Given my ambivalence to the recent vote in the Bay State blocking a referendum on a state constitutional amendment barring gay marriage, some readers seem to think I favor having the people of the several states vote on this important issue. But, as those who have taken the time to actually read my posts on gay marriage well know, I believe state legislatures, rather than the courts, should decide their requirements for marriage in their respective states.
And now it seems that at least one state is showing respect for its citizens by doing just that. Yesterday, the New York State Assembly, by a vote of 85-61, approved a measure allowing the Empire State to recognize same-sex marriages.
This is the first serious vote on gay marriage in any state legislature. You see, I discount the significance of most actions by the Legislature in my adopted home state, given how beholden California legislators are to special interests. Though had they voted on gay marriage before the citizens of the Golden State passed Proposition 22 banning recognition of same-sex marriages, I would have taken their actions seriously.
New York’s legislators show how it’s done. If California legislators had respect for their citizens, they would put a measure on the state ballot to repeal Proposition 22. Each member of the 150-seat New York Assembly now has put his position on state recognition of same-sex marriage on record. And the various members must now answer to their constituents for their stands.
It’s nice to see that, instead of bypassing the democratic process, advocates of gay marriage have instead sought to turn to the elected legislature. the body responsible for enacting — and amending — laws. So, despite the bellyaching (at the time) of the gay groups, something good did come of the finding of New York’s Court of Appeals (the Empire State’s highest court) last year that that gay marriage is not allowed under state law.”
Commenting on that ruling a year ago, I wrote:
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. . . . 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.Â
I’m delighted that advocates of gay marriage exercised the legislative option. Extending the benefits of marriage to same-sex couples is a significant step. And it should not be made by a handful of judges who do not answer to the citizens.
While the quality of the debate in the New York Assembly seems to have been as lame as the general debate on gay marriage, this is how democracy works. While it’s unfortunate that it took a court decision to get gay marriage advocates to turn to this messy process, I’m delighted that they’re finally looking to the legislatures. Let us hope, that in the future, they will seek to turn to these elected bodies rather than courts as they advance their agenda.
– B. Daniel Blatt (GayPatriotWest@aol.com)