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November 23, 2004

Post-Election Pause in SSM Fight Over

As usual, the Marriage Debate Blog is must reading for anybody interested in this issue. In fact, the significance of the posts currently up is a little surprising; the idea of strategic pause and/or focus on a temporary federalist compromise that some SSM advocates urged post-election doesn't seem to have caught on.

As I said, I recommend perusing the full blog, but I'll highlight three things, here. First comes a case that illustrates how proximate a Supreme Court opportunity to nationalize same-sex marriage or civil unions could be. Vermont-civil-unioned lesbians separated, and the biological mother of their child moved to Virginia and claimed sole custody. The Virginia judiciary has ruled in her favor, the Vermont judiciary has ruled in the other's favor. What now?

"The fact is, in this case there may be no enforcement mechanism for the Vermont court because the Virginia courts, the legislature and the governor of Virginia don't recognize the validity of the Vermont union," said Michael Mello, a professor at Vermont Law School and the author of a recent book on same-sex marriage.

"It's going to be a case like this, and possibly this case, that's going to get the gay marriage issue before the Supreme Court. That's really the only place to go when there is this kind of direct collision between two state courts, and it's hard to imagine a more direct confrontation," Mello said.

One further thing that this case illustrates is that the pieces are already in place for the national public battle over homosexual relationships to be about nothing less momentous than at least civil unions, and probably marriage. That fact works against Deb Price, whose suggestions for Democrats raise an interesting difference of opinion in their own right:

The Senate Democrats' new leadership team ought to use its fresh start to get "the gay thing" right: Seize the national spotlight by making every senator vote on a host of everyday protections that most Americans want those of us who're gay to share. ...

Imagine how hollow it would sound for amend-the-Constitution senators to claim "I don't have anything against homosexuals" if they had to defend such votes as continuing to allow Social Security to exclude elderly gay couples from its protective safety net.

I'm actually for that sort of public debate. If we believe same-sex couples ought to have a right or privilege, then they ought to; if we don't, they oughtn't. Some such debates (such as expansion of Social Security benefits) would highlight the degree to which opening things up to homosexuals will (and often should) open them up to any two people (or more) who support each other. On others, I don't see why politicians couldn't just make their argument for keeping a certain right limited to married couples. (Price's mistake, it seems to me, is to assume that there really aren't considered reasons underlying opposition to same-sex marriage.)

And lastly, I thought I'd blogged Fr. Roger Landry's excellent homily on marriage when it was published in the Fall River Diocesan newspaper, but I guess the fact that I couldn't find it online let it slip through the cracks. Anyway, apart from being worth a read on its own merits, the piece brings to the fore the quirks of life. Fr. Landry (I'm almost positive) was the priest at my wedding back in 1999. Five years later, we have neighboring posts on the Marriage Debate Blog. Sometimes it's the little things...

Posted by Justin Katz at November 23, 2004 11:24 PM
Marriage & Family