Columbia JReubs

Thursday, July 06, 2006

New York Court of Appeals rejects Gay Marriage Claims

The New York high court rejected an appeal by gay couples who had attempted to get marriage licenses in the state. A NYC Supreme Court judge had ruled that the state constitution required granting them marriage licenses, while other trial courts (there were 4 separate cases) had rejected the claim. The appellate courts rejected the gay couples' claims in all 4 cases and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

Decision: http://www.courts.state.ny.us/ctapps/decisions/jul06/jul06.htm (Select nos. 86-89)

NYTimes article: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/06/nyregion/06cnd-marriage.html?ex=1152849600&en=f3916a36c23a7f5b&ei=5070&emc=eta1

In rejecting the claims the plurality opinion (3 of 6 judges, with a fourth concurring) made several interesting arguments:

1) Scientific studies detecting no difference in children raised by a gay couple compared with those raised by a heterosexual couple do not prove that there is no difference:

"Plaintiffs seem to assume that they have demonstrated
the irrationality of the view that opposite-sex marriages offer
advantages to children by showing there is no scientific evidence
to support it. Even assuming no such evidence exists, this
reasoning is flawed. In the absence of conclusive scientific
evidence, the Legislature could rationally proceed on the common-
sense premise that children will do best with a mother and father
in the home."

2) The Court draws a fairly forceful distinction between restrictions on gay marriage and restrictions on interracial marriage.

"Until a few decades ago, it was an accepted
truth for almost everyone who ever lived, in any society in which
marriage existed, that there could be marriages only between
participants of different sex. A court should not lightly
conclude that everyone who held this belief was irrational,
ignorant or bigoted. We do not so conclude."

3) It is rational to assume that a primary purpose of marriage is to have children, and it is also rational to limit the benefits of marriage to those persons most likely to have children--heterosexual couples--even though homosexual couples may have children and some heterosexual couples choose not to.

4) The concurrence emphasizes that many court decisions according special status or protection to marriage have done so because of the relationship between marriage & procreation.

The plurality concludes with this: "The dissenters assert confidently that 'future generations' will agree with their view of this case.... We do not predict what people will think generations from now, but we believe the present generation should have a chance to decide the issue through its elected representatives. We therefore express our hope that the participants in the controversy over same-sex marriage will address their arguments to the Legislature; that the Legislature will listen and decide as wisely as it can; and that those unhappy with the result -- as many undoubtedly will be -- will respect it as people in a democratic state should respect choices democratically made."

4 Comments:

  • More analysis by the Times--arguing that the opinion is very forcefully anti-gay marriage and that it will be influential in other states.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/07/nyregion/07gays.html?hp&ex=1152331200&en=c2a63bf5dad8cae5&ei=5094&partner=homepage

    By Blogger Cliff, at 7:41 AM  

  • I'm interested in the 'common sense' excerpt.

    Generally speaking, at what point would science render common sense irrational? I.e. when, to the satisfaction of this court (on another matter, say) is there so much evidence that common sense is mere prejudice or superstition?

    By Blogger Machu Picchu, at 7:10 PM  

  • I guess I should also say that while the idea of 'common sense' counting despite science is troubling, even mind-boggling--I don't think it's wrong.

    A lot of what passes for science is 'junk science.' Surrounding AIDs research, some of what passes for science is great science--and other 'science'--like drug company research or maybe LDS Church statistics--tends to be fudged toward what is politically expedient or desirable.

    By Blogger Machu Picchu, at 7:14 PM  

  • I think that machu picchu (no idea who that is) raises a very interesting point, and in the context of the NYCA's opinion, it might best be rephrased as when can science render the common sense of the legislature irrational. That is what is interesting about the gay rights supporters using science to argue their point, because to me science is completely irrelevant in this case. That is, in a democracy, doesn't the democratically elected legislature have the right to enact a law that is based upon what the people want, even if that is contrary to either science or common sense? The constitutional question is whether or not there is a rational basis between a law and an objective, but it seems like the plaintiff in this case wanted to replace the search for a rational basis with a search for a scientific basis; or at least to equivicate the two. Is this the direction courts are generally heading in?

    I also wonder what this ruling does for attempts to pass the constitutional amendment, which I (and the Church) think is necessary to prevent the spread of gay marriage that the dissent and gay rights advocates assume to be inevitable. We no longer have the NY Courts to worry about, but rather have a much more politically legitimate body in the NY legislature (assuming they take a hint from the court and change NY marriage law). I of course agree with the the NYCA's decision in that these questions should be left to the more democratically-responsible body, but a part of me was hoping the judiciary would become so out of touch with reality and the interests of the people that it would fuel the push for a federal amendment.

    One final thought: it is sad how Satan can use something as evil as racism to create sentiments and sympathies that make those that oppose an evil like homosexuality to look bad themselves.

    By Blogger Ben James, at 5:52 PM  

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