A step forward

Why the Connecticut Supreme Court got it right. Plus, ominous noises from the right wing.
By EDITORIAL  |  October 22, 2008

The nation’s understandable preoccupation with the unfolding economic crisis has overshadowed a significant victory in the battle for same-sex marriage: the Connecticut Supreme Court, on October 10, ruled that gay and lesbian couples have a constitutional right to marry. 

The Nutmeg State thus joins Massachusetts and California as states that grant same-sex couples marriage rights equal to those enjoyed by other couples.

While Connecticut marriage licenses may be legally recognized only within that state due to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the ruling nevertheless expands the intellectual contours of the national debate over same-sex marriage.

The state’s high court did more than issue a ringing and eloquent endorsement of the right of all people to be married if they so choose. It did so while striking down an existing state civil-union law that, in effect, had granted gays and lesbians the rights and privileges of heterosexual marriage so long as those unions were not defined as marriages.

This sort of separate-but-equal thinking, the court said, violated constitutional guarantees of equal protection under the law. In the past, separate-but-equal thinking has been used to deny interracial couples the right to marry, African-American citizens the right to vote and access to education, and women the ability to pursue careers and livelihoods of their choosing.

Three states — Vermont, New Hampshire, and New Jersey — embrace civil unions. At least four others — including Maine, Washington, Oregon, and Hawaii — and the District of Columbia sanction domestic partnerships or some sort of legal union that affords various rights and responsibilities of marriage.

While such unions and partnerships are welcome steps along the road to full marriage rights, they are not equivalent to marriage. In the near view, the decision by the Connecticut court is certainly bold. But in time in will be seen as merely common sense.

The Connecticut decision also squarely addresses the issue of why appointed judges rather than elected legislatures are responsible for such decisions.

Again, the court’s thinking is rooted in past civil-rights battles. Gays and lesbians, like blacks and women, are the victims of clear and present discrimination, the Connecticut Supreme Court argued. Since domestic partnerships and civil unions are not full marriages and are therefore unconstitutional, and because there is little doubt that same-sex advocates would have little chance of achieving full equality through the legislative process, it falls to the court to act.

Only right-wing wackos would deny the need for the courts to extend equal protection under the law to African-Americans and women. People of good will should applaud the decision by the Connecticut Supreme Court. It takes that state to a place where the rest of the nation should be.

Republican Party reptiles
The scale-encrusted underbelly of the Republican Party is ably demonstrating that hate and intolerance are vibrant forces within the GOP.

The negative has always been an animator in politics, which Henry Adams once described as little more than “the systematic organization of hatreds.”

In recent years, the Republicans have proven to be frighteningly adept at harnessing the dark side of the American polity, cultivating Old Testament concepts of womanhood, racial stereotypes of blacks, and nativist fears of immigrants.

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