Monsignor Harry J. Byrne, JCD * * * Comment/

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Location: 3103 Arlington Avenue,, Bronx, NY 10463, United States

November 11, 2009


New York's State Senate met yesterday for a special session, called by Governor Paterson to respond to a projected $3 billion state deficit and to approve same-sex marriage. Big challenge, one day special session. But it began at noon! Our dysfunctional state senate accomplished nothing in its special half-day session!

NY City gay City Council Speaker Christine Quinn had emotionally called for passage of the marriage bill. NY Post's headline: "Speaker's Hail 'Marry' Appeal". But bringing the bill to the floor was postponed; the Senate's future approval is doubtful. Both sides are now in place for more lobbying.

This blogger urges the senators to vote for equal civil rights and benefits for same-sex unions. But please use the right word:"civil union", "partnership", whatever. Be creative, but do not use the word, "marriage". "Marriage" has a long history as a word, which denotes a union significantly different, as to anatomical use and function, from a same sex union.

A legislature has the right to confer equal rights and benefits; it has no constitutional or other right to reinvent the dictionary or to interrupt the history of linguistics on the origin and development of words. Can a legislature declare: "After January 1, 2010, the word,'marriage',has, by our etymological authority, been broadened to an additional meaning that includes same-sex unions and henceforth shall be so understood by all." I think not!

Under the constitutional prohibition of ex post facto laws, those who have entered a traditional "marriage" would enjoy the right to that named word as hitherto understood. A legislature has no right to discriminate against this class of citizens by denying it its exclusive use of "marriage". I wish our state senators well to equalize benefits but not to embark on a linguistic adventure.