The New Your State Court of Appeals ruling on gay marriage is all over the wires and the blogs by now, and I should (and will) leave it to others more expert than I to suss out the legal issues in the wake of the ruling. But there are a few things worth pointing out.
First, the court didn’t so much ban same-sex marriage as it declined to recognize same-sex marriages, finding that the state constitution doesn’t requires it do so. Instead, the ruling kicks the matter back to the legislature.
The New York State Court of Appeals refused to recognize same-sex marriage in a ruling issued on Thursday, saying the issue was a question for the Legislature to decide.
The New York case involved 44 gay and lesbian couples who filed four separate cases seeking to overturn as unconstitutional a 97-year-old state law that defines marriage as between a man and woman.
The couples claimed the law violated their constitutional rights because it defended sex discrimination. The cases were heard together by the court in Albany.
"We hold that the New York Constitution does not compel recognition of marriages between members of the same sex," the appeals court said in its 70-page ruling. "Whether such marriages should be recognized is a question to be addressed by the Legislature."
This may not be a bad thing. As I pointed out earlier, sometimes state legislatures decide in our favor, as was the case in California. I’ve noted before that polls show the tide of public opinion is turning in favor of marriage equality, with a greater number of Americans supporting either same-sex marriage or civil unions. And younger generations of voters — a future majority? — are more supportive of marriage equality than their elders. According to Keith, polls show that a majority of New Yorkers support same-sex marriage, and opposition has decreased. It’s looking more and more like opponents of marriage equality are running out of time.
It’s ironic that the ruling comes on the heels of a study that knocks a leg out from under one popular argument against marriage equality. Mombian notes that the majority decision cited the baby-making benefit to support their ruling. This in the same week that the American Academy of Pediatrics reported that marriage equality would benefit children of same-sex couples.
Civil marriage is a legal status that promotes healthy families by conferring a powerful set of rights, benefits, and protections that cannot be obtained by other means. Civil marriage can help foster financial and legal security, psychosocial stability, and an augmented sense of societal acceptance and support. Legal recognition of a spouse can increase the ability of adult couples to provide and care for one another and fosters a nurturing and secure environment for their children. Children who are raised by civilly married parents benefit from the legal status granted to their parents.
Gay and lesbian people have been raising children for many years and will continue to do so in the future; the issue is whether these children will be raised by parents who have the rights, benefits, and protections of civil marriage. Same-gender couples are denied the right to civil marriage in every state except Massachusetts and the right to civil union except in Connecticut and Vermont. The federal government and other state governments do not recognize those civil marriages and civil unions.
There is ample evidence to show that children raised by same-gender parents fare as well as those raised by heterosexual parents. More than 25 years of research have documented that there is no relationship between parents’ sexual orientation and any measure of a child’s emotional, psychosocial, and behavioral adjustment. These data have demonstrated no risk to children as a result of growing up in a family with 1 or more gay parents. Conscientious and nurturing adults, whether they are men or women, heterosexual or homosexual, can be excellent parents. The rights, benefits, and protections of civil marriage can further strengthen these families.
Well, duh. If anyone requires proof, I’ve got a happy, healthy 3.5 year-old at home, thriving with same-sex parents since he was four days old. (And the second adoption is currently in the works.)
In that regard the Academy joins a broad range of professional organizations that all say pretty much the same thing: gays & lesbians can make equally good parents, our kids fare just as well developmentaly as kids in other families, our families have the same needs as other families, and our kids would fare even better if their families had equal rights and protections.
So, the New York decision is a disappointment, but I wouldn’t chalk it up as a loss just yet. In the long run, I think time, history, and the majority of Americans — most of whom, I still want to believe, are fair-minded people — will be on our side in the final analysis.