Only a week after Governor Eliot Spitzer put the brakes on his plan to give illegal immigrants driver's licenses, the self-proclaimed steamroller is now pushing for yet another divisive issue, gay marriage.
Spitzer told a group of supporters at a Democratic fundraiser that if the Democrats gain control of both houses of the state legislature, legalizing gay marriage would be a top priority. The Democrats are currently three seats shy of holding the majority for the first time since 1965.
Gay marriage is a controversial issue to say the least. Marriage is, after all, the foundation of family life and the most fundamental tenet of our society. For thousands of years, marriage has existed between one man and one woman. Its strong religious connotations find roots in the Judeo-Christian experience. However, marriage is not by any means exclusively religious. Quite the opposite, it is also a very public institution.
Marriage is not simply a private matter of emotion between two people. On the contrary, its success and/or failure have a tremendous impact on all of society. Take for instance, the negative effects of divorce on the psychological development of children and the negative implications it has for overall health and wellness.
Governor Spitzer's assault on the institution of marriage is clearly counterproductive to the normative values of most New Yorkers and just another sign of his mismanagement of priorities. Public support on this topic is also low, something Spitzer has become accustomed to, lately. A May 2004 Quinnipiac survey found 55 percent opposed to gay marriage, with only 37 percent in favor. Similarly, a Siena College survey released last Tuesday found only 25 percent of voters would re-elect Governor Spitzer, while 49 percent indicated they would "prefer someone else."
Despite all the political rhetoric, defending the traditional role of marriage is not a staple of some radical Republican agenda. In fact, let us not forget that it was former President Bill Clinton, who signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) into law in 1996. After signing the law, Clinton stated, "I remain opposed to same-sex marriage. I believe marriage is an institution for the union of a man and a woman. This has been my long-standing position, and it is not being reviewed or reconsidered."
Earlier this year, Governor Spitzer declared the passage of a bill to legalize gay marriage "a simple moral imperative." How ironic it is then, for a man who seems to be so concerned with moral imperatives, to refuse to recognize the serious moral reservations shared by most people of good faith on this issue. This type of arrogance in government is the last thing we need in Albany. Homosexual persons deserve our utmost respect and should be entitled to receive many of the benefits usually afforded to married couples. However, the last thing New Yorkers need is a Governor to ram something down our throats.