October 28, 2006

Weekend Question 2: Why Does the New Jersey Gay-Marriage Ruling Show That ‘Early Voting’ Should Be Avoided?

Filed under: Taxes & Government,TWUQs — Tom @ 1:51 pm

Lots has been written on this, but all you need to see is the main paragraph of the holding (PDF opinion is here; HT Allah at Hot Air) and the court’s compliance expectation:

HELD: Denying committed same-sex couples the financial and social benefits and privileges given to their married heterosexual counterparts bears no substantial relationship to a legitimate governmental purpose. The Court holds that under the equal protection guarantee of Article I, Paragraph 1 of the New Jersey Constitution, committed same-sex couples must be afforded on equal terms the same rights and benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex couples under the civil marriage statutes. The name to be given to the statutory scheme that provides full rights and benefits to same-sex couples, whether marriage or some other term, is a matter left to the democratic process.

+++++++++++++++

To bring the State into compliance with Article I, Paragraph 1 so that plaintiffs can exercise their full constitutional rights, the Legislature must either amend the marriage statutes or enact an appropriate statutory structure within 180 days of the date of this decision.

Now, the purpose of this post isn’t to debate the merits of the holding above or the mandated timeline, but to emphasize that the ruling is a powerful lesson in why waiting until Election Day to vote if it is at all possible is so important.

Regardless of what you think of the ruling, there is little doubt that it not only changes the Garden State’s political landscape, but the national landscape as well. It also follows that, again regardless of what you think of the ruling, the issue of gay marriage/unions has become more important vis-a-vis other issues than it was a week ago.

If you’re a Jersey voter, there are many ways the ruling might cause you to change your thinking about candidates. These are just a few of many possibilities:

  • If you support the ruling, you would be more motivated to elect legislature candidates sympathetic to the cause of gay marriage (or whatever the state wishes to call it, because the courts said not to call it “marriage”), and somewhat less interested in legislators’ positions on other matters, especially given that the legislature is being compelled to do something next year.
  • If you are against the ruling, you would obviously be taking a much harder look at candidates’ positions, given that they will be designing (or conceivably will be among those who refuse to design) the “marriage that isn’t marriage” that the court has mandated.
  • Perhaps you are indifferent to the social issue of gay marriage itself, but are worried about the potential impact on state, school, and company budgets of allowing more partners in these relationships, whatever they are called, to latch onto the equivalent of spousal benefits. Extending the ruling not particularly far, you may believe that sanctioning a relationship not called “marriage” for gay couples might embolden unmarried heterosexual couples to press harder for their “right” to spousal-equivalent benefits, further busting government and company budgets. You would be looking for legislators who would reduce the scope of required benefits provided to all couples of whatever descriptive stripe, or who would insist on holding the line against heterosexual domestic partnerships. Your vote would be an attempt to ensure that New Jersey’s employers aren’t saddled with even more costs than the state, which already has the worst business climate in the country, forces them to endure.

National voters’ electoral calculations might include the above, but could also include consideration as to whether the New Jersey ruling jeopardizes the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) passed by Congress in 1996. Jay Sekulow thinks it doesn’t; others might not be so sure, thinking that if New Jersey can cobble together what is essentially a clone of gay marriage without calling it that, nothing, except Congress itself, could stop the federal government from mandating the same setup nationwide. All of a sudden, many voters would consider a candidate’s position on gay marriage and preserving or gutting DOMA awfully important. Again, it doesn’t matter where you stand on the issue; whether you think DOMA is a good thing or bad thing, there’s no doubt the DOMA’s survivability is a more important matter than it was a week ago.

All of this is thrown out the window for anyone who has voted already. If you have voted already and the issue matters to you, candidates’ reactions to the ruling that either cheer you or upset you, even to the point of making you question why you voted or did not vote for them, go into the “too bad, so sad” bucket.

All of this shows that anyone who can vote on Election Day, should vote ONLY on Election Day.

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