The European Court of Human Rights, the Council of Europe’s international judicial body in France, will not force its 47 member states to legalize same-sex marriage across the board, denying an appeal from two men who claimed Austria violated their right to be free from discrimination. The one up-side? In its written ruling, the court declared nations cannot deny marriage rights to gays based on their inability to procreate.
If we’re going to assume straight marriage is a right, rather than what it really is—a social contract legitimized and promoted by the government through various legal and economic incentives—on what basis can we deny it to gay people? I thought the whole point of rights was that they don’t differ from one society to another, so should definitely *not* be “assessed” by national authorities.
This ruling is unsatisfactorily equivocal: either marriage is a right, and the reason they give for allowing local decisions about gay marriage is untenable, or marriage is not a right, and the reason they should give is something along the lines of “marriage is a locally defined contract, not a right, so the question of gay marriage should be answered locally.”
Also, that bit about marriage not being able to be denied to gay couples on the basis of the fact that they can’t procreate just doesn’t seem to belong, given their conclusion that gay marriage is a local question. How can claim on the one hand that you can’t answer the question of the legality of banning or allowing gay marriage, but then state that such-and-such is not a permissible reason for banning gay marriage? It boggles the mind.
Maybe I’m being cynical, but it looks like they’re just splitting the difference: maintaining the status quo, but also throwing the gays a bone.