October 25, 2006

New Jersey Rules on Same-Sex Marriage

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled today in favor of same-sex marriage--sort of. A decision seemingly designed to avoid making anyone unhappy left both sides unhappy, which is usually how that goes.

As CNN reported: In a decision likely to stoke the contentious election-year debate over same-sex marriage, the New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that state lawmakers must provide the rights and benefits of marriage to gay and lesbian couples.

The high court on Wednesday gave legislators six months to either change state marriage laws to include same-sex couples, or come up with another mechanism, such as civil unions, that would provide the same protections and benefits.

The court's vote was 4-to-3. But the ruling was more strongly in favor of same-sex marriage than that split would indicate. The three dissenting justices argued the court should have extended full marriage rights to homosexuals, without kicking the issue back to legislators.

In a release titled "Radical Activists Prevail in New Jersey Marriage Decision," the right-wing Alliance for (Straight) Marriage was not happy:

"This marks the second state -- after Vermont -- where radical activist groups have convinced state court judges to hold a gun to the head of the legislature," said Matt Daniels, president of the Alliance for Marriage. “The legislature will now be compelled to choose between two bullets -- all under court order. Either they create so-called ‘gay marriage’ or they create a civil union scheme that is identical. Either way, the people of New Jersey lose the right to decide -- freely and democratically -- to choose the course that is best for them, their families and their children.”

"Given the continuous attacks upon marriage in courts across the country, AFM's Marriage Protection Amendment is clearly the only hope for the American people to determine the future of marriage under our laws," Daniels added.

Daniels also added, "Most Americans believe that gays and lesbians have a right to live as they choose. But they don't believe they have a right to redefine marriage for our entire society," said Daniels. "Americans want our laws to send a positive message to children about marriage, family and their future."

Let me insert a point here: Why shouldn't marriage be redefined? Doesn't the fact that the divorce rate hovers around 50% indicate that the institution, as now designed and practiced, falls WAY short of prefection?

Here's a positive message to kids about marriage: fall in love with whoever your heart leads you to, commit yourselves to that person, and stick with it. Just because it's always been done boy-girl and that's how it was in the bible doesn't mean boy-boy or girl-girl can't work and, more importantly, that God wouldn't bless it. Just because narrow minds don't understand something doesn't make it wrong, and it certainly doesn't mean that should be part of the U. S. Constitution.

Not all GLBT activists were completely happy with the New Jersey decision, however. This from Equality Maryland:

“If the true intent is to give all benefits to same-sex couples, then what is the point of calling it civil unions if not to caste a separate and negative class for LGBT couples,” said Executive Director Dan Furmansky. “This day will be remembered in history as one where a court of law granted some protections to same-sex headed families, but denied these families true equality and dignity under the law."

I tend to think that Dan is taking too much bloom off the rose today, but I also can't dispute his points. If I had invested as much of myself as he and other GLBT activists have to fight for the right to marry, I probably would not be satisfied with this incremental step either.

I still believe, however, that this was an important step forward for GLBT rights. People like Matt Daniels and his organization will insure that many, many more steps need to be taken before GLBT people will gain equality in marriage, but at least today there is one less obstacle to overcome.

1 comment:

  1. Surveys indicate that public attitude toward gay marriage changes based on question wording and whether the word "marriage" is used. Results like these (http://publicagenda.org/issues/red_flags.cfm?issue_type=gay_rights) suggest that many people are still wrestling with the implications of same-sex marriage, so surveys on this issue should be interpreted cautiously. Want to know more about what the public thinks about same-sex marriage and other issues surrounding gay rights? Check out Public Agenda’s Issue Guide on Gay Rights (http://publicagenda.org/issues/frontdoor.cfm?issue_type=gay_rights).

    Public Agenda (http://publicagenda.org/index.cfm) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group devoted to public opinion and public policy.