The NJ Ruling Was Not "Anti-Marriage"
President Bush Thursday lashed out at the New Jersey Supreme Court for voting earlier this week to give same-sex couples the same rights as opposite-sex couples when it comes to marriage benefits. "Yesterday, in New Jersey, we had another activist court issue a ruling that raises doubts about the institution of marriage," Bush said. The President's message was part of a concerted effort by the GOP to push the ruling onto the political agenda just in time for the election. The Boston Globe this morning reports: "In Pennsylvania, where Rick Santorum , a conservative Republican, is struggling to keep his Senate seat, the Pennsylvania Family Institute mailed fliers to potential voters, warning that 'homosexual legal activists in Pennsylvania and elsewhere will make good on their agenda to exploit rulings like New Jersey's to force homosexual marriages or marriage benefits on our commonwealth.'"
These comments are flat-out wrong (on many different levels) about the ruling that spawned them. At best, they suggest a fundamental lack of understanding about what the high court in New Jersey did and did not do. At worst, they represent a cynical and manipulative avoidance of the truth and import of the text of the ruling. The fact is that the New Jersey court over and over again endorsed the idea of marriage in language that could have come straight out of a GOP campaign ad.
Here is some language from the ruling: "We cannot escape the reality that the shared societal meaning of marriage -- passed down through the common law into our statutory law -- has always been the union of a man and a
woman. To alter that meaning would render a profound change in the public consciousness of a social institution of ancient origin. When such change is not compelled by a constitutional imperative, it must come about through civil dialogue and reasoned discourse, and the considered judgment of the people in whom we place ultimate trust in our republican form of government." Does that read like the work of "activist" judges undermining marriage to you? Of course not.
Here is another example from the majority ruling: "Before the Legislature has been given the opportunity to act, the dissenters are willing to substitute their judicial definition of marriage for the statutory definition, for the definition that has reigned for centuries, for the definition that is accepted in forty-nine states and in the vast majority of countries in the world. Although we do not know whether the Legislature will choose the option of a civil
union statute, the dissenters presume in advance that our legislators cannot give any reason to justify retaining the
definition of marriage solely for opposite sex couples. A proper respect for a coordinate branch of government counsels that we defer until it has spoken. Unlike our colleagues who are prepared immediately to overthrow the long established definition of marriage, we believe that our democratically elected representatives should be given a chance to address the issue under the constitutional mandate set forth in this opinion." Again, does that language tell you that this is a court wishing to "force" homosexual marriage? Of course not.
I understand that dividing voters, one against the other, through the use of cheap tricks like this is what politicians do. And I also understand that during campaign seasons truth and shame often are the first victims of public discourse. But Thursday's comments about Wednesday's rulings were really beyond the pale.
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