About Time

Posted by – May 29, 2008

Finally I don’t have to be embarassed to be a NYer: Governor Paterson has decided that NY will recognize other states’ same-sex marriages!

In a directive issued on May 14, the governor’s legal counsel, David Nocenti, instructed the agencies that gay couples married elsewhere “should be afforded the same recognition as any other legally performed union.”

The revisions are most likely to involve as many as 1,300 statutes and regulations in New York governing everything from joint filing of income tax returns to transferring fishing licenses between spouses.

It is SO about time.

5 Comments on About Time

  1. Barbara says:

    Frankly, I think the jury is still out on whether opposite-sex marriage is a good idea.

    Maybe so many straights are opposed to same-sex marriage because they’re afraid it’ll be just one more thing gays are better at,

  2. Catrina says:

    It will be tested in court. However, colleagues (lawyers with some solid background in Constitutional Law, not me) state his honoring is probably constitutional.

    JFR: My best meditation friend just got married in Mass to her partner of 23 years. It is symbolic because it is not honored in Illinois.

    Yet, there is concern with this trend of having the courts declare the right of gay marriage instead of the legislature passing legislation. There is a risk for a massive cultural and political backlash because it is definitely judicial activism. People see this as elitism. They hate it just for that, not necessarily because they are against civil unions or gay marriage. That creates a political problem.

    It also sets precedent to blur constitutional functions. Please consider, if the left can legislate from the bench so can the right.

    Think how far gay rights has gone in changing cultural opinions. It “has” significantly improved. I would think a better strategy is to elect legislators then pass gay marriage (or civil union) when there is a majority consensus with the people. We are closer to that than many think.

    Civil union, something Illinois is considering, might be a far wiser step as it avoids the religious connotations. It neutralizes a lot of opposition because it respects other more traditional cultures.

    This is not to say prejudice does not exist. It sure does. Yet, considering the massive and rapid progress made in creating cultural tolerance, properly grounding the ultimate gay right in majority cultural acceptance, not elite espousal, is within reach with some patience. People don’t like having other people’s values shoved down their throat. (Certainly the trans community has encountered that in the opposite direction. So many know how that feels.) When that happens people have a tendency to strike back. There “will” be a response. The culture might very well pass Constitutional Amendments banning “any” gay right, not because they are not sympathetic to gay rights, but because they seek their voices heard by the elites, especially the courts that they belief ignore their values.

    When that happens, disenfranchisement magnifies in major segments of the population and it ultimately makes it “more difficult” to gain rights. Better to convince the culture first, then pass.

  3. Veronique says:

    The matter of equal marriage in Canada was settled in the courts because that’s where it had to be settled. It wasn’t about Parliament passing a law allowing same-sex marriage. No such law is needed, because there is no special right to same-sex marriage. There is simply the existing right, under the Constitution Acts, for two people to be married. Gays can’t be “allowed” to have rights they should already have–and now are acknowledged to have.

    Just so you know, in the time since equal marriage was acknowledged to be the right thing under the Constitution, life has gone on pretty much as before. There has been no particular backlash, not even from the current Conservative (and quite conservative) federal government. And no one can fail to notice that the sky has not fallen.

    The US Constitution also contains an equal protection clause. Same as in Canada, gays and lesbians are not asking for some special dispensation. They don’t need any laws granting them rights they should already have. They just need an acknowledgment that such rights are already theirs under the Constitution. That’s what the courts are for. They don’t make laws. They are not legislating from the bench, any more than they did when they said that racial discrimination was unconstitutional. Their job is to say, as often as necessary, that legislatures can’t make a laws that are unconstitutional, and that people have to be allowed the constitutional rights they already have.

  4. Catrina says:

    Veronique dear:
    Your comments are insightful and provide an interesting non US perspective. There are however significant differences between the Canadian and US political and cultural zeitgeist.

    The USA is one of the most religious countries in the world. It is also driven by individual life entrepreneur ism far more than Canada. There is really not socialism per se in the States. It does exist in Canada. This provides a causality for cultural expression in the US that is not at all near the Canadain model. Canada follows a far more European model than the US. Its socialism follows more so the GB pattern.

    Politically the US is a Republic, not a democracy. This means the States themselves have significant powers that are enumerated in the 10th Amendment. Because of the republic nature of the political structure, there are many regional sub cultures whose voices are heard “every election”. This is not necessarily the case in Canada whereby Ontario pretty much determines the national electoral outcomes. As you know some western provinces were so frustrated with how Canada operates they were considering secession at one time because they perceived their voices are never heard in the national government.

    If the US had a Canadian system, all politicians would have to do is campaign in major cities and a few States like California to win elections. The Republic nature of the US system intentionally diffuses power across cultural and regional boundaries. Hence, with respect to your wonderful country that I know very well (traveled there frequently) the issues of gay rights in the States is massively more complex.

    There is no doubt there is “nothing to fear”. Yet, the pursuit to gay “marriage” alters the understanding of of a “spiritual” institution that has existed since the dawn of consciousness. One needs to tread lightly and cautiously when altering such meanings.

    Civil Union (that provides rights equal to marriage) is another matter because it does directly pertain to the 14th Amendment and specifically “the laws of man”, not the “Law of God”. By pursuing civil union one can avoid, spiritual, religious and metaphysical arguments that have massive potency in the US cultural zeitgeist. An argument can be made that “God will sort out if gayness is an imperfection” but in the meantime, as all well meaning people think, gays are equal humans. Hence it is more than appropriate to enact laws that assure equality in the world of man.

    Even the deeply but fair religious cultures in the US can buy into that argument and support it. After all, is there anybody here who is God? Only the most stratified crystallized religious zealots would object to such an argument.

    Please remember even in leftist California, the populace voted 61% “against” gay marriage. I bet if that referendum would have been about “civil union” the populace would have voted 70% for civil union.

    In the States there is huge difference. Essentially, it appears imperative to avoid metaphysical arguments about the validity of gay marriage because it can not be won. No one wins a metaphysical argument. Hence, in the US, it is imperative to try and find ways to live along disparate streams of cultural paradigms that simply do not exist in other countries.

  5. Veronique says:

    Catrina:

    We can’t get into a long debate in Helen’s blog. I just needed to make a few points.

    I agree that Canada and the US are different in many ways. They are both federations, but there are differences in the way powers are divided between federal and provincial/state levels. If you don’t know that the provinces have significant powers, then perhaps you haven’t visited enough! But in the matter of marriage, that’s federal in Canada and at the state level (I think) in the US. So that’s a significant difference.

    Ontario has more MPs than several other provinces combined. In practical terms, it does not have nearly the weight it once did. In these days of minority governments (two in a row so far), it’s a key to whether a party wins a majority, not whether it forms government. Economically, the western provinces are having a huge influence, and the current prime minister is from Alberta.

    As for socialism, none of us ever knows what Americans are talking about when they say this, and I daresay Americans never really specify where they think we’re socialist. Because we have single-payer provincially administered health care, in which people get care regardless of ability to pay? That’s called “civilized.” Because we have a stronger social safety net? That’s civilized as well. Otherwise, we’re a pretty market-driven society, same as the US, although it ought to be admitted that the US has more entrepreneurially-minded people.

    Back to marriage… the state really ought to be out of the marriage business entirely. Traditionally, despite what some proclaim (loudly), marriage was a contractual matter. The state should really only be in the business of civil unions for all, gay, straight, and other. Marriage should be something churches do, and legally meaningless. Of course, people would still call those civil unions “marriage.” That’s how language works.

    I hope the United States, despite its religiosity, someday can take that next step toward equal rights for all, as it has in the past.

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