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After New York, will marriage equality have to wait?

The rap on California elections, especially when it comes to same-sex marriage, is that the state's ballot initiative process too ably empowers voters to overturn carefully deliberated decisions made by legislators and judges. New York voters, by contrast, will not get the chance to do so after their state Senate's rejection today of same-sex marriage:

ALBANY -- The State Senate defeated a bill on Wednesday that would legalize same-sex marriage, after an emotional debate that touched on civil rights, family and history. The vote means that the bill, pushed by Gov. David A. Paterson, is effectively dead for the year and dashes the optimism of gay rights advocates, who have had setbacks recently in several key states.

The bill was defeated by a decisive margin of 38 to 24. The Democrats, who have a bare, one-seat majority, did not have enough votes to pass the bill without some Republican support, but not a single Republican senator voted for the measure. Still, several key Democrats who were considered swing votes also opposed the bill. ...

Had the legislation passed, New York would have become the sixth state where marriage between same-sex couples is legal or will soon be permitted. But now that it has failed, New York becomes the latest state where gay rights advocates have made considerable progress only to see their hopes dashed.

Last month Maine became the 31st state to block same-sex marriage through a referendum. The Maine State Legislature had voted to legalize same-sex unions earlier this year, but opponents of gay rights gathered enough signatures to put the measure on the ballot.

Last year, California voters repealed same-sex marriage after the State Supreme Court said that gay couples had the right to marry.

Unlike in Maine, however, New York does not have a referendum process that allows voters to overturn an act of the Legislature.

Read the whole story from the New York Times here.

I still believe the marriage question is one of inevitability (or, to use a cliche, when, not if), and the sense that history is on their side gives same-sex marriage proponents a tremendous psychological advantage. Still, even the most optimistic equality advocates must acknowledge that progress on this issue seems to have hit a wall over the last few years. The pain is particularly acute here in California, where the narrow passage of Proposition 8 dashed (temporarily) the hopes of same-sex couples, who had seen their domestic partnership rights steadily expanded by Sacramento over the previous several years. Several groups are gathering signatures to put on the 2010 state ballot an initiative overturning Proposition 8.

But is 2010 too soon? Should same-sex couples wait longer than they expected for marriage quality? It's a sordid thing for a straight man like myself who cares deeply about this issue to say to gay men and women. Their quality of life is at stake, not mine, and it's completely unfair for them to have to spend any more of their remaining lives as second-class citizens. But when the focus shifted from domestic partnerships to the M-word, conservative activists (and yes, I'm lumping in those of you who say you tilt left but oppose equality) dug in and fought hard -- and, I would say, unfairly.

The question doesn't have an easy answer. As The Times wrote in its Nov. 5 editorial on Maine voters' rejection of same-sex marriage:

Still, we now know that it will take more than well-prepared arguments and savvily run campaigns to bring about wider victory for same-sex marriage. Lifelong marriage traditions and deeply held religious beliefs have a strong grip on many voters. Younger people, who have grown up in a world of greater societal tolerance of different sexual orientations, are far more likely to vote for gay marriage. But even that greater acceptance came about only through years of gay-rights struggle -- legal, legislative and cultural.

The Maine experience indicates that this struggle continues uphill -- and it can't afford to pause now. Gays and lesbians shouldn't have to wait for an entire generation to reach voting age in order to receive equal rights.

-- Paul Thornton


Comments () | Archives (15)

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Despite NOM's spin, gay marriage seems to be inevitable. Here's why:
Researchers at Columbia Lax and Phillips just came out with a study titled "Gay Rights in the States: Public Opinion and Policy Responsiveness" in August 2009's American Political Science Review. It breaks down gay-marriage support by 4 age demographics in all 50 states. It is amazzzzing. Gay marriage is seemingly inevitable as the over 65 voters die off. If you are against gay marriage then this peer reviewed study will scare the hell out of you (and you can predict when it will have the majority support in your state.) Google it, open the pdf, and look at the graphs on the last few pages. It visually presents some astounding data.


Actually, the answer is very simple: Take the government out of the marriage business completely. Civil unions and benefits, divorced (pun intended) from the word "marriage," would have a much easier time passing than stuffing gay "marriage" down the throats of people who see marriage as between a man and a woman. Want to get "married?" Go to church, or mosque, or synagogue, or witch's circle. Want the government to recognize you? get a civil union.

Mitchell Young

It may be that 'marriage equality' is inevitable. But there are age effects -- people get more conservative as they get older -- and cohort effects -- different generations are socialized somewhat differently and thus have different political opinions. And then too, people lie to pollsters -- look at the Maine vote. Finally, the Sarah Palins and those folks in Utah are just plain outbreeding the goodthinkers -- and family is primary in formation of political attitudes. We'll be starting to see those effects very soon now. Arguably, we already have. And this is one area where more immigration won't help "progressives". It might help pass higher minimum wage laws, or healthcare, or more union-friendly laws (all of course which will be undermined by yet more immigration), but it will positively hurt progressives on the "social" issues.


It's not inevitable. Those who want to change marriage licensing by states need to persuade the rest of us how it will be beneficial to society. The pairing of two men and the pairing of two women are both demonstrably different than the pairing of a man and a woman. If it weren't true, than any gay man could marry a woman without conflict - there's no difference, right?

There nothing "second class citizen" about this. People, regardless of sexual orientation, are free to form voluntary associations with other consenting adults, but different kinds of voluntary associations are treated differently by the law – for good reason. Business partnerships are not nonprofits are not for-profit corporations are not domestic partnerships are not marriage are not homeowner associations.

Getting the government out of marriage licensing is a false compromise. The state has an interest in bride+groom pairings that it does not have with other voluntary personal associations. Click on my name for more.

Leland Traiman

California domestic partnerships are legally indistinguishable from California same-sex marriage. Therefore, as far all the rights a state may confer, we have marriage equality in California. Not having the RITES of marriage should not be more important than the RIGHTS of marriage. However, much more importantly, we do not have our federal marital rights and we will not achieve those rights until we change strategies. Obsessing on the "M" word has destroyed our chances to overturn DOMA during the current Congressional session. Given the probability that after the next election there will be fewer Democrats in the House and Senate (the sitting president's party usually loses seats) DOMA repeal is a long way off, maybe a generation. This is thanks to the marriage-only strategy which brought us 33 elections defeats & no wins and inappropriate equated domestic partnerships, which was invented by the LGBT community to advance our cause, to Jim Crow laws, which were invented by a white majority to oppress African-Americans.


The problem people have when predicting that same-sex "marriage" is inevitable is they only think about the gay part and not the marriage part. Once you start talking about the importance of marriage, its fragility, and what tremendous effort it takes to get women and men together and keep them together… gay “marriage” seems trite by comparison.

"Marriage is neither a conservative nor a liberal issue; it is a universal human institution, guaranteeing children fathers, and pointing men and women toward a special kind of socially as well as personally fruitful sexual relationship. Gay marriage is the final step down a long road America has already traveled toward deinstitutionalizing, denuding and privatizing marriage. It would set in legal stone some of the most destructive ideas of the sexual revolution: There are no differences between men and women that matter, marriage has nothing to do with procreation, children do not really need mothers and fathers, the diverse family forms adults choose are all equally good for children. What happens in my heart is that I know the difference. Don't confuse my people, who have been the victims of deliberate family destruction, by giving them another definition of marriage."

Walter Fauntroy - Former DC Delegate to Congress Founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus Coordinator for Martin Luther King, Jr.'s march on DC


Things happen somewhat faster in Europe.
here in the European Union three more Member States, namely, Portugal, Luxembourg, Slovenia have promised to introduce same sex marriage soon. Iceland, which is to join the European Union down the road, has also affirmed it would legalize same sex marriage in a couple of years.
Four other European Union Member States, namely, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain have already done so. Norway, which is not in the European Union has also made same sex marriages legal. The European Union is leading over the United States over same sex marriage law.


We are being told that legal implementation of gay marriage is inevitable. We have also been told that Hispanics will eventually become an ever-increasingly large segment of the population. These two "facts" cannot be reconciled. Hispanics may be, out of necessity as much as anything else, politically liberal, but socially they are very conservative. As their percentage of the population--and electorate--grows, their influence will expand. The next five years or so may be the last chance for the proponents of gay marriage to have a chance at broad acceptance. Also, the amusing argument that all those over 65--and anti-gay marriage--will die soon supposes, I guess, that young people who support it will not get older. And we all know what happens to people's political and social philosophies as they age. They tend to the right. Adios, gay marriage....


Why do some people think that the final outcome of this argument will be determined by the voters? It won't be. It will be the U.S. Supreme Court who makes the final decision, and even then, it won't necessarily be final. They've reversed their own decisions in the past, and they'll surely do it again in the future.


Thr author seems disappointed, even angry about the NY defeatof Gay Marriage. Maybe I'm wrong but shouldn't the LA Times report the news without bias? Insofar as the NY defeat: the legislators followed the majority of New Yorkers' wish on thi ssubject. Pardon me, but that's how representative democracy should work, not the legislator doing what he/she wants irrespecitve of their constituents' wish. Kudos to the NY legislators who voted their constituents' wish. And for the gay community, there will be time enough to mount a counterattack in the hope of defeating the will of the majority of Americans.

Paul Thornton

@Conservative_American: This is an opinion blog, not a news one. I'm commenting on the news, not reporting it.


Mr. Thornton, I'm glad that you and others at the paper can express opinions in the right place - on blogs like this. I wish more readers were more perceptive of the difference between news articles and opinion pieces. I have also seen other bloggers at the paper write some good satire, but some of the comments indicated that some readers completely missed the tone.

Pro America

As I have always said in order to resolve this Issue, we need to cave in as conservatives to recognizing that "gay love" is the same as any other love. And from the Left we must be realistic enough to honor "gay love" with a Certificate but we cannot destroy our economics any further by paying benefits to a "pure issue" of the heart.
Resolution is: Marriage without additional benefits. Win/win for all.

Richard Deight

Excuse me, but nobody is taking away anyone's rights. Society has long maintained the right to define and regulate morality. Beyond the rhetoric about “equality,” homosexuality is basically a morals issue. No one is telling gays they can’t marry; they just can’t marry each other, just like you can't marry your brother or sister. The push for gay marriage represents the triumph of agenda-based politics.

We're tired of having our language hijacked. The term "gay" originally meant "merry" or "carefree." "Partner" once meant "associate" as in business associate, but today more commonly refers to "domestic partner" in everyday use. Once you gain acceptance for terms that mean something totally different and euphemize deviant social behavior, what do you do next? Equate the issue with bona fide civil rights to gain a legal basis for claims of “discrimination.” Race, creed, religion, and national origin are examples of bona fide civil rights.

Two identical twins have the same genetic makeup, the same DNA, and the same upbringing. One is gay, the other straight. Ultimately, for whatever reason, we make our own life decisions. Maybe the choice is made for us, but someone's inability or unwillingness to make the right choice does not confer "special rights" on a vociferous minority.

Gays now have most of the same rights as married couples. And yes, they are special rights because there is no compelling or legitimate basis for granting them in the first place. Suzie may have two mommies, but many consider this trend wrong if not alarming.

What consenting adults do in the privacy of their own home is their own business. But when they do it in public, it becomes everybody's business. The goal should be acceptance and tolerance, not an affront to our sensibilities.


No way on gay marriage or civil unions. gays can do want hey want behind closed doors, the should stay in closets.



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