Not wanting to miss out on the nationwide marriage shouting match, the Georgia Supreme Court’s Commission on Children, Marriage, and Family Law (pdf) has recently sponsored a series of billboards with the message “Get Married, Stay Married.”
The sentiment might seem outdated, but the commission argues that science is on its side, pointing to research showing that children who grow up in two-parent households do better in school and are less likely to commit crimes later in life.
However, the good intentions behind these efforts are muddled by a potential conflict of interest. According to the Fulton County Daily Report, Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears has spearheaded the campaign and last week helped cosponsor a pro-marriage symposium that gathered participants from the fields of psychology, law, and religion. The other sponsor of the event was the Institute for American Values (IAV), a “private, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that contributes intellectually to strengthening families and civil society in the U.S. and the world.” (Sears told the Fulton County Daily Report that "very little state money" was used for the event, with private foundations picking up the tab and the IAV covering speakers' honoraria and transportation costs.)
But just like the benign-sounding “family values” behind the right's social agenda, the “American Values” touted by the IAV don’t include equal rights for the GLBT community. During a conference debate with the Brookings Institution's Jonathan Rauch, author of Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America, IAV president David Blankenhorn argued vehemently against gay marriage, claiming it would weaken the general institution of marriage.
Sears, who was targeted as a gay-marriage proponent in her 1998 and 2004 re-election bids, took pains to give both men equal time, but wouldn't take a stance on the issue, citing her position on the Supreme Court. The same care to maintain neutrality should have prevented the commission from teaming up with an organization that is so vocally against gay rights in the first place.
Image courtesy of the Supreme Court of Georgia.