A growing number of us have our own modest marriage proposal. Call it Proposition 9, or Prop -8, if you’d like. It would instantly confer more than 1,200 rights and benefits to same-sex couples in every single city, state and small town in the U.S., and it's already supported by two-thirds of Americans.
What is it? A federal civil unions law.
I'm torn. Its tempting.
On one hand, the children of gay parents need to benefits of marriage now, not in the future. Since so many gay people don't have children, this is one thing they don't understand. I wish it had been brought out in fight against prop 8. Gay headed families spend much more to try to legally approximate what marriage automatically gives them. They spend more in taxes, legal fees, and their children have less security in many states when it comes to health care, medical emergencies, divorce to name a few. This is all money that could be put into college savings, spent on clothes, vacations, food, etc. Time keeps ticking away and these children need these benefits now, regardless of what they are called.
On the other hand, its clear, that separate is not equal. Also, do 2/3 of people really support this? Or do they just say it because they want to "protect marriage" and don't want to sound bigoted. I guess we'll find out.
But wait, just because most Americans are open to civil unions, that doesn't mean it would be any easier to pull off.
It may be true that most of these amendments got in because the majority only oppose gay marriage, but not necessarily civil unions.
But the people and organizations who spearheaded them - like Focus on the Family - are far more extreme than even their own supporters. The anti-gay leaders don't want civil unions, domestic partnerships or anything else for gay people. They want homosexuality to be erased from the face of the earth.
Furthermore, in many cases, the lawmakers and religious leaders behind the amendments made sure the wording was vague and sweeping, and the public wasn't paying much attention when they voted on it.
Case in point: my state, Wisconsin. Our amendment doesn't just ban gay marriage, but also "anything similar" to it. If anyone tries to set up a civil union in Wisconsin, all the same organizations that supported the marriage ban will come out in full force again.
They will make all the same arguments: "homosexuality is a sin", "this will legitimize homosexuality and force children to learn about it in school", "this will lead to (insert totally unrelated social ill here)", "THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!", and so on and so forth. It will be just like before, only this time they'll be able to use the already established wording to claim the constitution bans civil unions.
Which I might add, we tried to warn Wisconsinites about, but the dumbfucks didn't listen.
And then there are the thousands of laws that specifically require "marriage". Like the one just passed in Arkansas, it bans adoption rights for any non-married couples, does it not? How then could a civil union EVER be equal to a marriage?? It couldn't.
Either way you've got a social and legal clusterfuck on your hands.
Though the upside might be that it will finally separate the two groups who are currently melded together: the vast majority of Americans who, for better or worse, are against gay marriage but not necessarily all gay rights; and the Christian right, anti-gay politicians, and other anti-gay leaders who think homosexuality of any kind is intrinsically evil and must be eradicated.
If we try to set up civil unions and the bible thumpers and right wing wackos still go ape shit over it (and they will), then maybe average Americans will finally wake up and realize what kind of people they've been supporting, what kind of bigoted psychos they've been sharing their political beds with.
posted by Eshto, at
11/18/2008 7:29 PM
I think it is a winning strategy. Establish precedence; protect families. Now.
The courts will eventually (as they did in NJ) find that separate is not equal, and the full rights and title of marriage will be conferred.
By that point it will be a non- issue to most people, who will have seen that the sky has not fallen. Only the brain dead 30% will throw a fit. They can move to Johnston Island.
there is nothing wrong with an incremental approach. It does not take away from gaining marriage to pursue a national level civil union status. This is not a "zero-sum game."
posted by kim allen, at
11/18/2008 7:33 PM
I ran across this quote today ...
"the very purpose of the Bill of Rights is to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities... Fundamental rights may not be submitted to a vote, they depend on no elections."
- Justice Robert Jackson (SCOTUS)
And while I agree it [Civil Unions] may be a "winning" strategy ... I can't help but hear this quote ringing in my ears!
"Justice Delayed, is Justice Denied"
- William Gladstone, British Politician (1809-1898)
For me, this is very simple - it is not about Religion - it is about Uniform Equality under the Law.
SCOTUS declared in Loving v Virginia - 'Marriage is a Civil Right'. Nowhere did they append to this decision - "unless you are Gay".
posted by Paul_Chapeau, at
11/18/2008 8:02 PM
Ok. Sorry Wayne to be a comment hog today -- but I just got back from a Protest Action Follow-up meeting between the volunteers who helped organize Saturday's Atlanta Protest Action.
We had a great discussion about what's next? what are we fighting for - exactly?
My new best argument is this (and I must say it came out of this groups discussion that one of the issues is that people don't realize there is a diffference between a Church Ordained wedding and a State issued marriage license::
Let's push the Government to get out of the "marriage" licensing business altogether -- only issuing Civil Agreements between (2) consenting Adults (Gay or Str8).
Then churches are then free to "Marry" whomever (Gay or Str8) that is right for their set of beliefs.
There is a difference between them already - let's settle it by giving churches the term "marriage".
In this context - I'm all for Civil Unions (by the State). That is Equality and Separation Between Church and State.
posted by Paul_Chapeau, at
11/18/2008 10:46 PM
It is my belief that gay marriage will not happen while the vast majority of the population views same-sex relationships as, if not outright immoral, then in some way inherently inferior to opposite-sex ones.
Even something vaguely similar to what straight people get will provide an opportunity to demonstrate that the alleged inferiority of same-sex couples is based on prejudice rather than facts. For example, all those people who believe that long-term gay partnerships simply don't exist will be proven wrong.
That's why I'd be happy to get civil unions at this point - even if such unions explicitly came with significantly less rights than marriage.
Of course I'd want to have exactly the same rights, including the right to call such a relationship a "marriage", and I see no reason to hide what we really want. But civil unions provide a relatively safe opportunity for people to take stock of the idea legally sanctioned same-sex relationships, and see with their own eyes how such a thing works. I think that's a good reason to accept them if they're on offer.
posted by Z, at
11/19/2008 1:44 AM
I'm ambivalent about this one, part of me wants my rights now and the other part is, just how equal are civil unions even at the federal level. If they were offered and the constitution were amended to state that they are to be recognized as equal to marriage, then maybe I could accept them. The only country where civil unions confer all of the rights of marriage including automatic name change to the other partner and the right to adopt is the UK. Other countries in Europe offer some semblance of legal unions but none as comprehensive as the UK's. Societal attitudes there equate them with marriage by another name but they have not been governmentally designated as such. In addition, prior to civil partnership laws in the UK, a gay citizen could bring in his foreign partner and remain a legal resident who would be allowed to work and receive other benefits without even having a legal partnership. That law is still in effect. That's something else that needs to be addressed.
posted by Robert, NYC., at
11/19/2008 8:05 AM
I'm sorry but I am childfree and yes, I DO RESENT being told to accept separate but unequal because of the "CHILLLLLLDREN".
The ONLY way I would accept this is if it was made clear that ALL the rights of marriage are included in "civil unions"
More and more I long to move to Canada, where their Parliament saw their way clear to do the right thing and to keep their fundies on a short leash!
posted by Merlyn, at
11/19/2008 9:36 AM
Crain is badly mistaken. 2/3 of Americans do NOT support a national civil unions bill. 2/3 of Americans SAY, in polling, that they support civil unions, especially when it is given as an alternative to marriage itself.
But what would happen in the real world is very different. Last week, the Mormon church said that they have "no objection to civil unions" so Equality Utah immediately put such a bill before the Utah State legislature and invited the Mormons to support it. Needless to say, we haven't heard a word from those lying imbeciles.
Should we accept civil unions? Let's re-phrase this question: If gays weren't allowed to ride the bus, and then the bus company came to us and said, "You can ride the bus now, but you have to sit in the back," would we accept that because we finally got the right to "ride the bus," or would we consider it a degrading insult?
To me, civil unions are an insult, and I would never support any lawmaker who wanted to legally brand my relationship as "less than." We must stay the course. People like James Dobson aren't getting any younger, and young people support same-sex marriage by 2 to 1.
posted by Chris L., at
11/19/2008 10:47 AM
I believe you are right, Chris. I do not believe that civil unions will ever be equal to marriage and we should accept nothing less than equality. Childed LGBTQ people will just have to wait like the rest of us.
Of course the Morons never got back to Equality Utah...those people lie like rugs.
We don't have marriage equality and that is what LGBTQ people should expect. Nothing less.
posted by Merlyn, at
11/19/2008 12:16 PM
We're almost there, and we need to stay the course. The gay equality movement has achieved a lot; Prop. 8 wasn't lost in the streets, it was lost on television. They had more money than we had and they got their ads on before us, and we never recovered. We dropped 19 points overnight after that "mommy, i learned that I can marry a princess!" ad. THAT is what did it. I don't think that "street activism" would have brought about a different result; we made a classic mistake: we allowed the opposition to define us before we had defined ourselves.
posted by Chris L., at
11/19/2008 12:55 PM
I'd want to take it a step further. Give "marraige" to the church. Any legal union, same or opposite sex, should be a civil union. If they wish to take it to a house of worship, then it can be marraige. This way it would not make my life different from that of my heterosexual counterparts, or less legitimate.
The task of the gay rights movement is going to have to be explaining why civil union is not sufficient, and to explain it in objective, not subjective, ways.
There are two major objections to civil unions that I think we need to separate out here. One is subjective, the other is a matter of fact.
First, it's demeaning, even if it grants the exact same legal rights. That's probably the reason closer to our hearts - but it's probably NOT the reason most Americans care about. They think "what's the problem? You wanted the same rights, why does it matter what it's called, they're just being emotional."
The second point is probably something we are less emotionally reactive to, but I think it's more realistic and likely to convince people:
I don't think a legal definition that is not marriage could ever have the same status, as a matter of pure, objective fact. It just can't. As with the Arkansas adoption ban example, thousands of laws literally use the secular, legal term "marriage".
So on one hand we've got the social/emotional argument, the idea that calling our relationships something else is insulting. It's not entirely subjective, but it is a bit. It's not by any means unimportant, but unfortunately we can't expect other people to give a shit about how we feel.
On the other there is the plain objective fact, "civil union" does not and cannot equal "marriage", and here we sure as hell CAN expect other people to pay attention, because now we are talking about reality and the law.
People need to know that civil union doesn't equal marriage in a purely legal context. Emotions, values and everything subjective aside. They need to know they are literally speaking nonsense when they say we could set up a "civil union" that had all the rights of marriage.
And they need to know that trying to take the easy way out (let's just have a civil union with all the same rights), is not only not as easy as they think, it might even be more difficult and perhaps completely unrealistic and impossible.
The only way it could work is if there were a dramatic overhaul of the entire legal system and state and federal levels, such as the proposal to change all legal marriages to civil unions and leave marriage to religious institutions - but that seems even more insurmountable than simply extending marriage rights to people who are currently excluded, doesn't it? You would have to change countless local and national laws in every state that all use the term "marriage" and you would face an uphill legal battle every single step of the way.
In short, people fall back on "civil union with the same rights as marriage" because they are lazy and it seems like a convenient compromise. It isn't. It's even more ridiculous than full marriage equality across the board.
posted by Eshto, at
11/19/2008 1:52 PM
And I might add, marriage is currently already a LEGAL and SECULAR term. A marriage is a civil contract with the state and federal governments. It does not require a wedding or any other religious ceremony.
My brother is utterly without religion, he had a purely secular ceremony with a court official, and he and his wife are MARRIED.
Atheists can marry. Non-Christians can marry.
So no, we should not "give 'marriage' to the church". We shouldn't give any part of our secular government over to any religious body.
This "let religion have marriage" crap is just another lazy attempt at compromise that causes more problems than it solves.
posted by Eshto, at
11/19/2008 1:57 PM
Any straight couple who doesn't understand the difference should be asked this question: "Would you turn in your marriage license for a civil union license?"
posted by Chris L., at
11/19/2008 2:20 PM
We should have what some European countries have , but for opposite and same-sex couples. Have a mandatory civil ceremony that will give all the rights of marriage. If you desire a religious marriage, then go to a church afterward.
posted by Merlyn, at
11/19/2008 2:26 PM
Chris, that is the ultimate question to pose to straights when discussing this matter. It's simple yet it clears up the whole argument in the proverbial twinkling of an eye!
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