Republican prospects in November's elections are decidedly brighter today as result of the ruling by the New Jersey Supreme Court on same-sex marriage.
The court ruled that same sex partners must be granted the same rights and benefits afforded opposite-sex couples under New Jersey's civil marriage statues, but deferred to the state legislature the decision on whether the same sex arrangement should be called marriage. So the court essentially said that same sex partnership walks like a duck, looks like a duck and should be granted all the rights and benefits of a duck, but concluded it didn't have the authority to call it a duck.
Now the state legislature has 180 days to decide whether to call it a duck, or to call it a goose that has the same legal standing as a duck. It will decide whether to legalize same-sex marriage, or whether these homosexual partnerships should exist under a separate but equal civil union regime.
I guess you might call the latter possibility, which local pundits say is the more likely outcome, the Plessy V. Ferguson equivalent of same-sex marriage. Plessy, of course, was the Supreme Court ruling in 1896 that found segregation in public facilities constitutional as long as the separate facilities were of equal quality.
How the New Jersey legislature handles this will not be known until well after the November elections. But those who are saying that this decision, because it fell short of outright legalization of same sex marriage, will not be the adrenalin injection to disillusioned and apathetic conservative voters that Republicans claim it will be, are wrong.
Conservatives are not as dumb as liberals might think we are. You might call a duck a goose, but we really know a duck when we see one.
Consider the disappointment among homosexual activists in the wake of this decision. Listening to these folks make their case for same sex marriage over recent years, you would really have thought that this was all about complaints about discrimination in rights and benefits.
But if that was what this was all about, they'd be ecstatic with this decision. Same sex partners in New Jersey now have identical rights and benefits to those of traditional marriage. The complaint about legal discrimination is off the table.
Their disappointment emerges from the fact that homosexual activism is as much about legitimacy and acceptance as rights and benefits. It's about culture and values.
A club that is not enthusiastic about my becoming a member may grant me all the benefits of membership, but withhold the designation "member." When I show up for functions, even though I can do everything everyone else does, I'm still an outsider. I'm still different.
Conservatives understand that this movement is about rewriting our cultural script, and redefining our values, as it is about legal technicalities and rights and benefits.
But if this is the case, why should the New Jersey decision, which falls short of outright legalization of same sex marriage, be a motivator in boosting Republican turnout in November?
Because the decision moves the ball a long ways downfield.
The court concluded the absence of the identical rights and benefits for same sex couples that traditional opposite sex married couples enjoy constituted a violation under the equal protection clause of the state constitution. This reasoning, therefore, established essential equivalency between traditional marriage and same-sex unions. On what basis the court felt that it had authority to make this leap of equivalency is totally unclear.
We only learn, in the decision, that "times and attitudes have changed."
Reading through the decision, you wouldn't get a clue that there might be legitimate challenges to what is offered as fact that individuals have no choice in their "sexual orientation." The slope down which we've slid to arrive to where we are today has been so slippery that most don't even realize we've been on a journey.
Regardless of what the New Jersey legislature does three months from now, whether they legalize same-sex marriage or call it a civil union, same-sex unions have achieved a decisive and significant new level of legal, and hence social, acceptance as result of this decision.
Prior to this week, same sex partnership in New Jersey was not a duck. Now it is. We just can't call it one _ yet. Our traditional understanding of marriage and family, has been placed under siege.
Let's recall Confucius' observation that "When words lose their meaning, people will lose their liberty."
The New Jersey decision will shake many depressed, alienated, hostile and apathetic conservatives out of their doldrums. It will remind them of the damage that those to whom they're prepared to abdicate power can really do.
Many decisive races are very close and even a small boost in turnout will make a difference.
Virginia and Tennessee, both of which have very close senate races that could determine control of the Senate, have same-sex marriage bans on their ballots.
We have had to pay a price in New Jersey. But Republican prospects are looking much brighter today than they looked a month ago.
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