Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Marriage-related news: Spitzer, Spain, and the California court

As well all know by now, NY Governor Eliot Spitzer has been fingered in a federal prostitution probe. He's apologized, and speculation is rampant as to whether he will resign. This has prompted feminist bloggers to those perennial questions: Why is prostitution illegal?, and Why do we place such importance on these "public sex shamings"?

Another good question is: What does Spitzer's scandal mean for the marriage equality issue in New York? Among much else in his short and controversial term in office, Spitzer has been a leading advocate for marriage equality for same-sex couples, introducing groundbreaking legislation to accomplish that goal last year. Whatever you think of Spitzer's actions, being revealed as an adulterer no doubt damages his credibility on marriage in the eyes of many. If he continues in office, it's questionable if he can do any further good, and indeed whether he is bound to do harm on this issue.

On the other hand, Spitzer's resignation could be "a blessing in disguise," according to some -- because Lt. Gov. David Paterson is also a strong advocate of marriage equality and lacks the baggage Spitzer has accumulate from other bruising political fights. I guess we'll see what happens.

Meanwhile, Spain's Socialist government was re-elected this week, and Pres. Zapatero's triumph after a bitter campaign appeared, according to the New York Times, "to endorse some of Mr. Zapatero’s boldest decisions, including the withdrawal of Spain’s troops from Iraq, the granting of more autonomy to Spain’s rebellious regions, simplified divorce and the legalization of homosexual marriage." It's possible, of course, that voters cared less about social issues like marriage than about Spain's faltering economy. In any event, the election puts an end to the prospect that the Socialists' groundbreaking reforms on marriage equality, divorce, and the right to legally change gender could be reversed or cut back by the Popular Party.

But probably the most significant marriage-related item on people's minds this past week has been the March 4 oral arguments in the Marriage Cases at the California Supreme Court. There's been much speculation based on the justices' questioning, and it's all over the map: some predict a loss for the petitioners, others predict a win, and others are only willing to guess that it will be close. For my own part, my head was swimming from the three-and-a-half hours of argument, so I'm not even going to try to count noses -- but it was definitely fascinating to watch, and the passion, eloquence and insight of the attorneys for the petitioners clearly outshined the half-hearted advocacy of the state's attorneys and the largely empty rhetorical bluster of the organizational amici. If they lose the advocates for marriage equality will know they did their best and made an impressive showing.

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