Thursday, July 06, 2006

Breaking News: New York Court of Appeals Stuck in 1909

The New York State Court of Appeals issued a 4-2 decision this morning holding that the New York Constitution does not compel recognition of gay marriage, and that whether gay marriage should be recognized is a question that should be decided by the Legislature.

Although the Court says that the 1909 law clearly intended to restrict marriage to a man and a woman, they "would hold it invalid, no matter how long its history," if they "were convinced that the restriction plaintiffs attack were founded on nothing but prejudice." But, they say, this isn’t like interracial marriage.

The Court goes through an extended thought experiment to see whether there are rational grounds on which the Legislature could choose to restrict marriage to couples of opposite sex, and decides that there are.

One of the reasons was basically that straight people need more help to stay together. Because same-sex couples:
"do not become parents as a result of accident or impulse.... [the] Legislature could find that unstable relationships between people of the opposite sex present a greater danger that children will be born into or grow up in unstable homes than is the case with same-sex couples, and thus that promoting stability in opposite-sex relationships will help children more."
Okaaay. Right. Great reason there, people.

A second reason they note is that kids need both male and female role models, and that the jury is still out on whether gay families can raise kids as stable as those raised by straight people. With a 50% divorce rate, and numerous examples of bad parenting by all types of people, regardless of sexuality, this rationale doesn’t pass the laugh test.

I really can't stomach reading much more of this. So, just some other quick highlights (or lowlights):

-- Although "the right to marry is unquestionably a fundamental right [... the ] right to marry someone of the same sex, however, is not "deeply rooted"; it has not even been asserted until relatively recent times.
-- The Court says that this case is not like Lawrence, because restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples is not an arbitrary restriction
-- The Court explicitly holds that rational basis scrutiny is appropriate.

Chief Judge Kaye dissented, with Judge Ciparick concurring. She says;
"For most of us, leading a full life includes establishing a family. Indeed, most New Yorkers can look back on, or forward to, their wedding as among the most significant events of their lives. They, like plaintiffs, grew up hoping to find that one person with whom they would share their future, eager to express their mutual lifetime pledge through civil marriage. Solely because of their sexual orientation, however-- that is, because of who they love--plaintiffs are denied the rights and responsibilities of civil marriage. This State has a proud tradition of affording equal rights to all New Yorkers. Sadly, the Court today retreats from that proud tradition."

She states that the right to marry is fundamental, and that "fundamental rights, once recognized, cannot be denied to particular groups on the ground that these groups have historically been denied those rights." She quotes the Supreme Court’s statement in Lawrence that "times can blind us to certain truths and later generations can see that laws once thought necessary and proper in fact serve only to oppress. As the Constitution endures, persons in every generation can invoke its principles in their own search for greater freedom." She concludes "Simply put, fundamental rights are fundamental rights. They are not defined in terms of who is entitled to exercise them."

As to the majority’s laughable rationale that gay people shouldn’t get married because it’s better for the children, CJ Kaye writes "The State plainly has a legitimate interest in the welfare of children, but excluding same-sex couples from marriage in no way furthers this interest. In fact, it undermines it" because it deprives children being raised by same-sex couples (by the way, a reality) of tangible legal and financial protections.

She concludes "I am confident that future generations will look back on today's decision as an unfortunate misstep."

The opinion, Seymourv. Holcomb, Kane v. Marsolais, Samuels v. NYS Department of Health, & Hernandez v. Robles, is available in PDF and WordPerfect.

1 comment:

Aaronay said...

nicely put, sonj!