NY Court of Appeals Decides Same-Sex Marriage Case
New York’s highest court handed down its eagerly anticipated decision in Hernandez v. Robles this morning. The court first decided that New York statutes did in fact limit marriage to opposite-sex couples, then proceeded to analyze that restriction under a rational basis test, defining the relevant right as not the right to marry a person of one’s choosing, but “[t]he right to marry someone of the same sex.” It found that the New York legislature could have had rational bases for drawing a line between opposite-sex and same-sex couples:
Plaintiffs seem to assume that they have demonstrated the irrationality of the view that opposite-sex marriages offer advantages to children by showing there is no scientific evidence to support it. Even assuming no such evidence exists, this reasoning is flawed. In the absence of conclusive scientific evidence, the Legislature could rationally proceed on the common-sense premise that children will do best with a mother and father in the home. (See Goodridge, 798 NE2d at 979-980 [Sosman, J., dissenting].) And a legislature proceeding on that premise could rationally decide to offer a special inducement, the legal recognition of marriage, to encourage the formation of opposite-sex households.
Rejecting comparisons to the racism at issue in Loving, the court stated:
Plaintiffs have not persuaded us that this long-accepted restriction is a wholly irrational one, based solely on ignorance and prejudice against homosexuals. This is the question on which these cases turn. . . . As the dissent points out, a long and shameful history of racism lay behind the kind of statute invalidated in Loving. But the historical background of Loving is different from the history underlying this case. Racism has been recognized for centuries — at first by a few people, and later by many more — as a revolting moral evil. This country fought a civil war to eliminate racism’s worst manifestation, slavery, and passed three constitutional amendments to eliminate that curse and its vestiges. Loving was part of the civil rights revolution of the 1950’s and 1960’s, the triumph of a cause for which many heroes and many ordinary people had struggled since our nation began.
It is true that there has been serious injustice in the treatment of homosexuals also, a wrong that has been widely recognized only in the relatively recent past . . . . But the traditional definition of marriage is not merely a by-product of historical injustice. Its history is of a different kind. The idea that same-sex marriage is even possible is a relatively new one.
The decision is here.