Monday, January 11, 2010

California’s Gay Marriage Trial

Recent defeats with the electorate in Maine and Senate votes in New York and New Jersey have sent gay advocates back to the courts in California. Apparently the next round in the gay marriage debate is going to be fought in Federal Court.

In an attempt to topple Proposition 8, Lambda Legal has brought suit in Federal Court claiming that the state cannot reserve the language and status of marriage just for heterosexual couples and relegate same-sex couples to a lesser status.

The case is officially designated Perry v. Schwarzenegger but both the governor and Attorney General Jerry Brown refused to defend Prop 8 against the challenge. Therefore the sponsors of Prop 8 obtained permission to defend the law.

I wonder if there has ever been a situation before where a private organization undertook to defend a state law in court because the governor and attorney general refused to do so?

According to the Associated Press, Prop 8’s backers will “argue that because same-sex marriage still is a social experiment, it is wise for states like California to take a wait-and-see approach” and their witnesses will testify “that governments historically have sanctioned traditional marriage as a way to promote responsible child-rearing and that this remains a valid justification for limiting marriage to a man and a woman.”

As for the for the first argument, they apparently fail to understand that the United States has been, is, and hopefully will continue to be, one long “social experiment” as well as a political experiment.

As for the second argument, how then does one justify calling marriages those unions of individuals too old to produce or raise children, incapable of producing or raising children or have declared no desire to produce or raise children? Gay couples are often willing to adopt and raise children that no one else wants. Isn’t this an example of “responsible child-rearing?” I find it disturbing that the very same people that insist that a woman should choose adoption over abortion also want to lock out gay couples from adopting and raising the children produced by that decision.

The judge in the case is Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker and he is asking for both sides to present the facts which underlay the often heated rhetoric in the gay marriage debate. A U.S. District Judge is unlikely to be persuaded by the fear mongering that gay rights opponents have used so successfully with the electorate.

Also according to the AP, specific questions the judge would like to have addressed are:

Whether sexual orientation can be changed?
Well, at least according to the American Psychological Association, it can’t be. In 2009 the association declared that mental health professionals should not tell gay patients that they can be made heterosexual through therapy.

Of course there is a minority that disagrees and I’m sure Exodus International, whose core message is “Freedom from Homosexuality through the Power of Jesus Christ,” will be on hand to debate the APA conclusion.

Still, I have to believe that gay marriage supporters win on this one easily. The prevailing scientific opinion is that sexual orientation is not changeable. It may be capable of being suppressed, but it can’t be changed.

How legalizing gay marriage affects traditional marriage?
The bottom line here is that it doesn’t. This is sort of like asking how drag queens affect non cross dressing males or how minnows affect the courses of oil tankers. Given the tiny percentage of the population we’re talking about here the affect is going to be zero. Most heterosexual couples will never even encounter a homosexual couple.

I think gay opponents are going to have a very hard time presenting any sort of compelling evidence that extending the right of marriage to gays is going to have a negative impact on heterosexual marriage.

What is the effect on children of being raised by two mothers or two fathers?
The problem with this question is I don’t think anyone really knows. On the other hand, there are lots of studies which document the negative effects of being raised by no mothers and no fathers.

I’m sure the children from gay families similar to the ones we saw on Rosie’s Cruise or their social workers can be paraded through the court to provide at least anecdotal evidence that they turned out just fine. It’s unclear however where this goes without any significant study data to back things up.

Regardless of the outcome in the district court this one is going all the way up to the Supreme Court, I guarantee it.

No comments: