Yesterday was showdown time at New York State’s Court of Appeals, where same-sex couples fighting for their right to marry squared off with defenders of the current law, including State Attorney General Elliot Spitzer and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The justices spent two and a half hours hearing arguments over whether the law should be changed to grant gay men and women to right to marry, simply by changing the gender-specific language of the law.
While the plaintiffs argued the current law made them second-class citizens (and that even civil unions make them such), the defendants made the incredulous argument that since only 1.3 percent – “a very small number” – of New York State households are same-sex arrangements, it just didn’t make sense to up and change the law for them. The latter also made the case that if the definition of marriage should change in social contexts, then it should be up to the legislature to make that change (NB: this is Bloomberg’s position specifically).
Working against our team is the Appellate Court’s prior decision that marriage served the purpose of “the begetting of offspring” and not to legally display the committment between two loving people. But it sounds like we do have some allies on the bench.
After first citing traditional views of marriage, Judge Smith then asked whether the time was ripe for the courts to approve same-sex marriage. Judge Smith also wondered whether the issue of same-sex marriage deserved special attention because of the history of discrimination against gay people.
“Aren’t homosexuals about the classic example of people who have been abused and discriminated against,” and who therefore need the protection of the courts? he asked.
The court’s decision is forthcoming.