Friday, November 01, 2013

132.2 - Update 1: Same-sex marriage

Update 1: Same-sex marriage

Three brief updates, two from last week and one from the week before.

First, in talking about how same-sex marriage rights have come to New Jersey, I mentioned the midnight weddings in Asbury Park performed by a retired priest.

The update is that the evening of that same day, that retired priest, Tom Pivinski, married Malcolm Navias, his partner of over 20 years. It was an interfaith service at their home and afterwards, they noted that the rings they have worn for 20 years can now legally be called wedding rings.

The second update is that I mentioned or at least intended to mention, that 8 counties in New Mexico allow same-sex marriages. This unusual situation can arise because the state constitution refers to marriage as a union of two people, neither expressly allowing for or denying same-sex marriage rights.

Well, after those counties began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the state Supreme Court agreed to make a decision to settle the matter for the whole state. The court heard oral arguments on October 23.

What's astonishing here is how feeble the arguments against it have become. Jim Campbell, counsel for 12 GOPpers who sued to stop same-sex marriage, actually argued that the purpose of the marriage statutes was to encourage procreation.

Now, beyond the fact that at a time when population growth and resource depletion are genuine environmental concerns and so encouraging procreation would seem to be not the best idea, by Campbell's argument, not only same-sex couples but those beyond child-bearing years could not marry. Those who are infertile could not marry. Anyone who has had a vasectomy or a tubal ligation could not marry. Birth control should be illegal.

But it gets dumber. Campbell also argued that allowing same sex-couples to marry would "discourage" heterosexual couples from marrying and procreating. And he can say that because as everyone knows, the marriage rate among heterosexuals has just plummeted in states with same-sex marriage! Why, some of those states don't even do opposite-sex marriages any more!

I really wish that when he said that someone in the court had just said to Campbell "Discourage? Um, how?"

Justice Charles Daniels didn't do that, but he did note that marriage entails "many other benefits," most of which have "nothing to do with whether we have children." He mentioned tax benefits, inheritance and property rights.

A decision is expected by year's end. So it's possible - I emphasize possible - that soon New Mexico could make it fifteen states with marriage equality.

Speaking of which, I have to make a small correction. Last week I said that 14 state plus DC allow for same-sex marriage and six more recognize some form of domestic partnership or civil union, together covering 43% of the population of the US. I also said that 10 years ago that percentage would have been zero.

While that would be true for states with full marriage equality, it overstates the case when you include domestic partnerships and civil unions: New York City allowed domestic partnerships in 1998; California did so in 1999 and DC in 2002; Vermont had civil unions starting in 2000. So 10 years ago, the percentage was not zero. But just over 15 years ago, it was.


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