Thank You, New York

Everyone reading this surely already knows that the New York legislature passed a bill authorizing same-sex marriages, but I can’t let the occasion go by without taking notice of it.

First, congratulations to all the happy couples who will soon be achieving their long-deferred dream of marriage. My best wishes for you all.

Second, I am delighted that this was a legislative, rather than judicial action. I have approved of those judicial actions that have brought about equality, but it is even better when the people’s elected representatives do the right thing, instead of being judicially prevented from doing the wrong thing. Also, with several states now having legislatively passed same-sex marriage bills, the “it’s never been done democratically” argument is deader than Elvis. He can still be heard on any given day, but this bad argument is silenced forever (although I will still rejoice the day a public referendum in support of same-sex marriage passes).

Third, while not letting it dampen our celebrations, we should take note that future process may be slow. Rather than momentum building, it may be the case that the low-hanging fruit has been, or is still being, picked. This is a great case study in both the upside and the downside of federalism. One the one hand, federalism allows some backwards, uhm more conservative…oh, hell, backwards states to resist doing the right thing long past the point they should, contra Canada, the Netherlands, etc., where it was done as national policy (although Canada is also a federal country). On the other hand, I think it’s indisputable that if SSM proponents were forced to act only on the national level, we’d be far less advanced than we are now. Whatever national momentum we have is almost purely a process of state-level actions. And while in the absence of state-level policy arenas proponents would have poured far more resources into a national effort they would have had far less potential for making real advances there.

Fourth, endless kudos to Dispatches commenter Owen, for the definitive visual representation of this historic moment.

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About J@m3z Aitch

J@m3z Aitch is a two-bit college professor who'd rather be canoeing.
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8 Responses to Thank You, New York

  1. “Second, I am delighted that this was a legislative, rather than judicial action.” – I agree entirely. A male relative is a relatively open-minded Massachusetts lawyer who gets accused of bigotry because he opposed the “activists” in the SJC here. Making sure justice is served via the appropriate avenues is what puts “our side” above there’s. Or something like that.

  2. Michael Heath says:

    Owen’s picture is brilliant. I think it’s worthy of becoming the iconic representation of this awesome moment.

    James:

    I am delighted that this was a legislative, rather than judicial action. I have approved of those judicial actions that have brought about equality, but it is even better when the people’s elected representatives do the right thing, instead of being judicially prevented from doing the wrong thing.

    I readily concede all the political and ‘culture war’ reasons why a legislative victory is superior to judicial fiat. However I disagree with your conclusion; we shouldn’t be delighted this was the method employed. The fact that most American gays are both prevented from exercising their rights and the government fails to defend that exercise is illustrative of how dysfunctional our federal courts are at executing their constitutional obligation to defend the individual rights of people against the tyranny of the majority and in this case conservatives’ and conservative Christianity’s hatred toward gay people.

    So I’m all for patting New Yorkers on the back; but it would be nice to see a movement of people begin to take seriously how cowardly the federal judiciary is in letting such injustice stand, e.g., letting DOMA.

  3. Dr X says:

    In many states, change will come about as the elders die off. Except for those youngsters who socially quarantine themselves by attending evangelical colleges, most will end up meeting, knowing and liking gay people. It’s difficult to deny basic rights to people you love and respect. Around the school I attended (I’m there frequently), gay and straight kids are thoroughly integrated socially. Walk into any bar or coffee shop in near campus and it’s abundantly evident the sexual orientation no longer demarcates the boundaries of friendship.

    And even some of the older people are still changing their views. I was encouraged last week when a very conservative woman in her 60s was ranting to me about opponents of gay marriage. This woman is Catholic and a longtime watcher of FOX News. To my surprise, she said she changed her mind about gay marriage and was ridiculing the idea that gay marriage somehow damages heterosexual marriages. She sneered and said they should mind their own business and take care own marriages instead of worrying about everyone else.

    Nice.

  4. James Hanley says:

    OK, apparently the picture isn’t Owen’s; he just linked to it. The artist seems to be Mirko Ilic, and the image made for the Village Voice. Thanks to Mr. Ilic, and to Owen for bringing our attention to it.

  5. James Hanley says:

    Michael,

    I get your point, but my point is that when the public does wake up to the fact that we’re denying people our rights we’re no longer dependent on a non-cowardly judiciary. We’re also no longer asking others to do the work, but taking the necessary steps ourselves.

    Also, I think you’re too harsh on the federal judiciary. The judiciary is by nature a conservative institution (and on net that’s a damned good thing), and it is not really competent, nor designed to be competent, to be an active leader in social change. See, The Hollow Hope. If a case had been won at the federal level too early in this battle I have no doubt that a federal marriage amendment would have passed faster than you could say “You may now kiss the bride.” Such an amendment came within a whisker of passing through Congress, with only the reluctance to intervene in state affairs causing a critical few Senators to oppose it. Without the tie-in of “state’s rights” there would have been no bar to those few casting votes for it. Ultimately the Constitution may mean what the Supreme Court says it means, but it’s effective meaning is only what the public allows the Court to say it means. That doesn’t necessarily require majority support, but if a majority dislikes the interpretation their opposition has to be relatively non-intense.

  6. Michael Heath says:

    James,

    I agree with your response to my post within the framework of modern day politics; in fact your answer is directly related to my conceding the political wisdom of this approach in my very first sentence. Consider Barney Frank’s old argument the gay movement should proceed just like we encountered in NY rather than focus on the courts. He’s focused on an optimal outcome for his cause within light of the political climate rather my focusing on an optimal process to maximize all results long-term. Rep. Frank’s position is possibly a pragmatic reaction within the framework of how dysfunctional our politics have become because of Roe v. Wade following actions of the Warren court, i.e., the well-considered argument that social acceptance of gay rights will come more quickly legislatively than judicially. But that only illuminates some combination of antipathy or ignorance regarding both our form of government and its inherent strengths within the context of the DofI’s ‘just governance’ standard.

    In the framework of a relatively impotent judiciary we should expect the type of outcomes we encounter like Roe or that you point out. But that misses my point, which is that a competent judiciary consistently publishing rulings appropriately defending individual rights would better inform the public on exactly what type of republic Ben Franklin gave them, how such a government actually works, and the value of such when consistently applied. So when the judiciary does act appropriately within the framework of being consistently competent, it’s a validation of how a self-proclaimed free-people govern themselves rather than falsely perceived, shocking display of judicial tyranny.

  7. Lance says:

    While I’m glad that the New York legislature has ended the inequitable treatment of gay and lesbian couples with regard to marriage rights, I still think it would be better to get the government out of the marriage business all together.

    I have heard arguments that point out that government sanctioned marriage is entwined in our society as in; SS benefits, rights of survivorship; child custody etc. This is not a compelling reason to keep this sanction any more than it was for keeping slavery which was also entangled in many other legal and social aspects of our society.

    I say hooray for the people that can now get “married” but think it would be better if the government had no role in the establishment or dissolution of personal relationships.

  8. Lance says:

    James Hanley,

    Ultimately the Constitution may mean what the Supreme Court says it means, but it’s effective meaning is only what the public allows the Court to say it means.

    I guess we can scratch your name from the list of idealists.

    I guess I grudgingly agree, but only as I grow more jaded with age.

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