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March 02, 2004

Gay Marriage Spreading, Legal Challenges Sure to Follow

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

There seems to be a lot more going on today than just one Mayor being called in.

I would not be surprised if by sometime this summer, the New York Supreme Court will be ruling on how gay marriage can go forward in the state because of a less than specific state Constitution. I also think it is why NY AG Eliot Spitzer is not going forward with all the legal challenges.


New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer says he decided not to fight gay marriages being performed in a small village north of Manhattan because it is a case the state can't win.

"We wouldn't have won," says Spitzer. The state, he says would have been unable to prove that there was any "irreparable harm" against any party - the standard needed to persuade a court to grant an injunction.

"I have no problem with gay marriage," Spitzer, a Democrat, says. "I think the law has moved to a point where people are comfortable that [marriage] can be extended to people of the same sex."

Nevertheless he said many state legislators and even some in his own office disagree. As a result he has ordered a complete review of the state Constitution to determine whether civil marriages between same-sex couples are already legal.

Ultimately, he says, "the courts are going to have the final say."

Spitzer's position has put him at odds with Republican Gov. Pataki. Pataki has said that state law clearly allows marriages only between a man and a woman.

Pataki had directed Spitzer last week to go to court to stop the same-sex weddings that were being performed by New Paltz's maverick mayor, Jason West. Spitzer refused.

But I would imagine that because of this, it puts him a few nothces down on the VP shortlists of Kerry and Edwards (no change for Sharpton's or Kucinich's).

And there's more...

Ithaca Mayor Carolyn Peterson announced Monday that the city in upstate New York would begin accepting applications for marriage licenses from same sex couples, but would then pass the applications on to the state for approval.

The move opens the door for gay and lesbian couples to then sue the state if the licenses are not approved. Peterson said the city would join in any court battle on behalf of same-sex couples.

"Same-sex couples deserve the equal protection of the law, the same as any other couple. They deserve to be able to bring their families out of the status of second-class citizenship and into the full array of rights and responsibilities that are available to married couples," she said.

"I am in strong support of all of Ithaca's families and will actively support all legal means to make marriage available to same sex couples...I believe that by supporting families, all families, we stabilize and strengthen our community," Peterson told a news conference.

The mayor also said that the city will immediately begin to recognize all same-sex marriages legally performed in other jurisdictions.

and still more...

The mayor of Nyack, New York, a quiet suburb of New York City, announced Friday afternoon that he will recognize any same-sex marriage wherever it was performed.

While the measure is largely symbolic it shows the growing acceptance of same-sex couples in the wake of the court decision in Massachusetts that gay marriage was legal and the nearly 4,000 gay weddings already performed in San Francisco.

Nyack Mayor John Shields made his announcement shortly after the mayor of nearby New Paltz married nearly a dozen couples on the steps of the village hall.

I don't understand how extending marriage to same-gender couples undermines traditional marriage or weakens community. On the contrary, I believe personal commitments strengthen community. A powerful way to affirm traditional marriage is to have strong marriages between committed people.

And West Hollywood is deciding what to do and whether to get in on the action.

The West Hollywood City Council took steps Monday aimed at recognizing same-sex marriages performed in San Francisco and elsewhere and called upon the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to consider performing same-sex marriages in the county.

Council members voted unanimously to direct the city attorney to review West Hollywood's ordinances, policies and procedures and recommend any changes needed to ensure that same-sex married couples will get the same protections and privileges as their heterosexual married counterparts. The city attorney will come back with the recommendations at a later date for a council vote.

Like I said last week, maybe it is time.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at March 2, 2004 06:13 PM | TrackBack


Don't go worrying too much about Spitzer putting himself out of the VP running-- he never would have gotten it anyway, too soon for him (he might be an extraordinarily national-caliber state AG, but he's still pretty unknown outside of the NY area regardless and doesn't bring much to the table besides his crusading personality and record to date). And besides, he is smart enough to recognize that and focus on preparing to run for Governor in 2006-- which incidentally I think factors into his calculations here, he is smart enough that in the near term he knows this won't be a good thing in a national race, but that at the rate things are going in NY it will be great to be this out front of the issue in a coupla years. (I'm pretty sure that same kinda thing factored into City Council Speaker Giff Miller's decision to push Bloomberg to license gay marriages-- its pretty well known that he plans to run against him in 2005).

Posted by: Sean at March 2, 2004 07:25 PM

And here comes Portland, Oregon!!!
Multnomah County grants gay marriage licenses

Posted by: Jason Young at March 2, 2004 09:19 PM

I suppose there are two ways to look at this, and time will only tell. One is that this is too much too fast and invites a massive backlash. Two is that people realize that the sky has not fallen and learn to accept it.

In fact, I think both will happen at the same time with different constituencies. The bigots will get furiated and try to make a backlash. Your ordinary American who is uncomfortable (but not contemptuous) of gays will likely realize that two gals gettin' hitched ain't the end of the world.

Posted by: WhoMe? at March 2, 2004 10:42 PM
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