Mark D. White
Last nigt New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill allowing same-sex marriage after a lengthy process of legislative tomfoolery. Those who have read my previous posts and work on the issue will not be surprised to hear that I am very happy about the result and less than pleased with the process.
Unlike most, I think issues such as same-sex marriage, which at their core are issues of human rights and dignity, are matters best dealt with by the courts, not the legislature--a small quibble, perhaps, seeing that the just result was achieved, but an important one nonetheless. Just in pragmatic terms, legislation can be overturned much more easily than court decisions. But on principled terms, human rights should never be put to a vote--they should be affirmed by the courts, our designed guardians of principle, rather than a deliberative political body.
One quote from the news report above (from The New York Times) may help make my point:
With his position still undeclared, Senator Mark J. Grisanti, a Republican from Buffalo who had sought office promising to oppose same-sex marriage, told his colleagues he had agonized for months before concluding he had been wrong.
“I apologize for those who feel offended,” Mr. Grisanti said, adding, “I cannot deny a person, a human being, a taxpayer, a worker, the people of my district and across this state, the State of New York, and those people who make this the great state that it is the same rights that I have with my wife.”
Very inspiring, and it helps make a case that popular affirmation of same-sex marriage may be more satisfying symbolically (especially when it involves people changing their minds and supporting it). But it also points out that the people of New York state left it to its state legislature to decide whether gays and lesbians have the same rights that straights have with their spouses. And as we have seen over the weeks this has played out, the successful vote was never assured until last night--a dreadfully uncertain and contingent method for asserting equal human rights and dignity for all.