Thursday, July 06, 2006

Two setbacks for gay marriage

In New York, the state's highest court said an existing ban on gay marriage is constitutional, and so it's up to legislators to remove it.

The Court of Appeals in a 4-2 decision said New York's marriage law is constitutional and clearly limits marriage to between a man and a woman. Any change in the law should come from the state Legislature, Judge Robert Smith wrote.

"We do not predict what people will think generations from now, but we believe the present generation should have a chance to decide the issue through its elected representatives," Smith wrote.

The case featured one interesting image: Elliot Spitzer, who supports gay marriage, defending the state's gay-marriage ban in his role as attorney general. Anyone want to bet whether Republicans will try to use that fact to weaken Spitzer's support among gay-rights supporters?

Hours later, Georgia's top court reinstituted a gay marriage ban that had been invalidated on a technicality by a lower court.

In an ideal world, the state would get out of the marriage business altogether and leave it to churches. But that's not going to happen.

So I take the long view on things like this. Can we codify anti-gay sentiment? Yes. But we can also uncodify it when the time comes. Each succeeding generation is less and less concerned about their neighbors' sexual orientation. In 20 years these laws will start to be repealed, viewed with the same faint tinge of embarassment that haunted anti-miscegnation laws in their last dreary days.

In the meantime, we should pass laws ensuring same-sex couples enjoy the same legal rights as heterosexual couples in the areas that matter: inheritance, medical decisions, tax law and adoption. That's a simple matter of fairness.

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