I have to say, I was a little surprised at yesterday's New York court ruling rejecting an effort by gays and lesbians seeking the right to marry in the state. Without being extremely well versed in the specific issues in New York, I had still somewhat expected the court would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.
What I found most suprising was the reasoning behind the decision:
The court conceded that "the benefits of marriage are many." But the three-judge pluralitiy wrote that the Legislature could rationally decide, as a matter of social policy, that it is more important to promote the stability that marriage brings within an opposite-sex union than within same-sex unions.
In addition, it said, the Legislature could reasonably believe that "it is better, other things being equal, for children to grow up with both a mother and a father."
It strikes me that allowing only opposite-sex marriages won't address either one of those goals.
First of all, I guess I'll concede that marriage brings stability to society. (Although...how exactly? In a culture where it's just as easy to get divorced as to get married, how exactly does marriage ensure stability?) But anyway, I'll give the court that.
But if we agree that marriage provides stability, wouldn't we agree that more marriages provide more stability? Or at the very least, I don't see how allowing same-sex unions threatens the stability provided by opposite-sex ones. Are members of the court and the New York Legislature afraid that, if they legalize gay marriage, wives and husbands in opposite-sex unions will suddenly all leave each other?
It's the second point, though -- about the kids -- that I really don't get.
For the sake of argument, I'll grant you that kids might "do better" with a mother and a father. I've never understood exactly what that phrase meant in this context (better test scores? better at sports? richer?). And even though there are studies to the contrary, let's just say that kids are better off with a mother and a father.
How does this court ruling (and, in effect, the NY state law) even address that?
By logic like this, couldn't we allow same-sex couples to get married if they swear not to have kids? And how does this ruling do anything to gay couples who aren't married but do have children?
If the goal is to get kids in male/female households as much as possible, this ruling ain't gonna cut it.
My arguments are probably pretty old and tired, and it's possible they don't really hold water. But it seems to me that the same could be said of the court's -- and the NY Legislature's -- arguments as well.