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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Marriage rulings may not be welcome news to GOP either

By Steve Charing
Senior Political Analyst
Same-sex marriage proponents suffered a major setback when the New York State Court of Appeals ruled that the state constitution does not provide a legal basis for members of the same sex to marry. The bizarre, almost illogical, rationale for the 4-2 majority decision made it even more frustrating.

"The Court's archaic reasoning is rooted in ignorance and completely contradicted by the facts of today," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese in a statement. "The Court threw the expert advice of child welfare professionals and years of scientific evidence out the window with its ruling against fairness." The HRC is the largest lgbt civil rights organization in the U.S.

Court of Appeals Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye dissented on the ruling and wrote, "I am confident that future generations will look back on [this] decision as an unfortunate misstep."

At the same time, a Georgia court upheld its ban on same-sex marriages. The Georgia decision was not unexpected; to a larger degree, the New Your one was. Recent polls have shown that a majority of New Yorkers favor marriage rights for same-sex couples. The New York decision allows for the legislature to consider changing the existing law.
More recently, there were similar setbacks in Connecticut, Tennessee and Nebraska that stymied the pro-same-sex marriage movement.

These defeats prevented, at least temporarily, an opportunity to turn the corner, move forward, and establish a venue in addition to Massachusetts as a place where gays and lesbians can legally marry. Moreover, the rulings could embolden other judges to make similar decisions on pending cases. In Maryland, the Deane and Polyak v. Conaway lawsuit is headed to an appeals court to determine if the ruling by a lower court that found the state’s marriage law is discriminatory should be upheld or tossed out.

Yet as bad as these court outcomes are for the lgbt community, the Republican Party may not be whooping it up either. Sure, they got their way: the drive for the legalization of same-sex marriage hit a major speed bump. Innate homophobia that defines the religious conservative-dominated GOP drives the anti-gay sentiment.

During the 2004 election cycle following the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in the Bay State, the Republicans under Karl Rove used the fear of "gay marriage" as a rallying point to dredge up and motivate otherwise apathetic religious conservatives (read: bigots) to head to the voting booths.

Republicans were successful in positioning the issue of gay marriage on the ballots of 11 states so that the people would decide its fate, not "activist judges," whom were demonized by Rove, Bush and their loyal minions. Many political observers credit this fear tactic as persuading a sufficient number of Catholics, African-Americans and evangelical Christians to vote and may have had a crucial impact in such battleground states as Ohio.

The 2006 elections, of course, do not involve a run for the presidency. But all of the members of the House of Representatives and one-third of the U. S. Senate are up for re-election. Then you have the Governors races (including Maryland) and state legislatures that are up for grabs.

The Republicans are hurting. They are beset by the low approval ratings for President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress, the war in Iraq and other international hot spots, the economy and its burgeoning deficits, oil prices, myriad scandals and ethics issues (including the military), environmental concerns, healthcare, immigration reform, our standing in the world community, and a gaggle of other issues important to the American people.

Furthermore, Congress has been widely criticized in the media for wasting time on such peripheral issues as gay marriage, flag burning and protecting the words under God in the Pledge of Allegiance rather than tackling the more important matters.

As a result of the recent court rulings that have impeded the drive for same-sex marriage, the GOP cannot assail "activist judges" who are undermining the so-called institution of marriage. They cannot legitimately argue that unless Republicans are elected, these judges will go wild on American values.

The scare tactics used in the past may not hold water this time around although several more states will have the ant-gay marriage amendments on their ballots. The recent court decisions, while discouraging to lgbt activists, may have quelled temporarily the urgency created by the fabrication that society is collapsing because of actions taken by Massachusetts-type judges. Accordingly, the New York and Georgia decisions may douse the right-wing crazies’ "enthusiasm" come November.

What matters most is that the GOP record is out there to be judged, and without the use of fear, they are in trouble.

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