Monday, November 27, 2006

Civil Unions

I think this is one of the most divisive issues facing the people of this country today. Gay marriage has been outlawed in 32 states, including Hawaii, where the denial of a marriage license to gay couples was ruled as unconstitutional in 1993. That state passed gay marriage legislation in 1998. Massachusetts is currently the only state to allow gay marriages, and their Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that this would only apply to residents. Vermont is the only state that allows Civil Unions, and Arizona recently rejected a same sex marriage measure. The only states that have not addressed the issue with any sort of statute or amendment to their constitutions are: Arizona, New York, New Mexico, New Jersey, Massachussetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. The Federal government enacted the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 (signed into law by President Clinton), which bars any same sex couple from the receipt of federal benefits. With an issue as volatile as same sex marriage, it is understandable that few solutions have been proposed.

It is with this wave of legislation, and in discussion with conservatives, that I believe I have an understanding of the real issue. The question I have been asking is whether or not the issue is purely religious, or is it out of a genuine desire to deny same sex couples equal benefits. The resounding answer has been that the only problem conservatives really have with gay marriage, is a religous one. Being an atheist, this is obviously hard for me to understand. What I have been trying to do, rather than stay the course (couldn't help myslef), is to find real solutions for the problems we are facing today. I think that if more people tried to do that, then we might actually start seeing change, and people could start to have faith in something more than their god, they could start having faith in their government.

With the same ferocity that religious groups fight the idea of gay marriage, homosexuals understandably reject the idea of civil unions. The thought that any American is denied a right is repugnant, but marriage isn't a civil right. If it were me, anything less than what another is offered, is unacceptable and discriminatory. This is what makes it so hard to understand how so many people in this country approve of bans on same sex marriage. How could anyone deny something as personal as marriage to another, after all, isn't what happens in the bedroom off limits to legislation? But what I've come to understand is that the right doesn't see marriage as something that CAN be offered to homosexuals. Their faith doesn't allow it, and so they can't understand the idea either.

If it truly is a religious issue, then I believe I can offer a solution. Marriage is a religious instituion. It was founded within organized religion, and is mired with its rituals and rules. At some point along the way, the institution became one recognized as a secular one. It offers us tax incentives, and has an entire court devoted to it. The concept of family itself is only granted by someone holding a license, who is married someone else with a license. I can certainly understand why incentives are offered to families. The median household income in the United States hovers around $50,000. The keyword being household. If families are to ever make it, and if children are going to get the opportunities they deserve in order to become useful, productive members of our society, then we owe it to them to help in any way we can. However, the presence of children is not what defines a family, just as Marriage doesn't. So I offer this. Remove government from marriage altogether. If it is a religious institution, then let it be. No more licenses, no more state sanctioned marriage. Let the church marry who they believe can be, or should be, and everyone else can obtain a civil union, whether it is a man and a woman, a man and a man, etc. If benefits are not an issue, then extend them to everyone, whether that is a product of a marriage or a civil union. If the Church chooses not to marry homosexuals, then maybe that should be a clue as to what they should believe, but they would be on equal ground with everyone else who obtains a civil union. No person should feel like they are less than another in this country, and it's unfortunate that their are institutions like organized religion that preach this everyday. I'm hopeful that one day I will live in a country where no person is discriminated against by this government.

19 comments:

Andrew said...

Complex language is part of what allowed us to evolve from apes to humans (or maybe it was the evolution of vocal cords capable of complex language, but that's really a chicken or the egg sort of issue). Now language is allowing some humans to devolve back into a semi-ape state through the brainwashing and repression of intellectual endeavors by religious texts and denominations...I've digressed.
The linguistics of the word marriage and civil-union is interesting to me because they mean exactly the same thing to some states as far as legal rights are concerned (Connecticut, Vermont, and Massachusetts are all that I know of but there may be others). Only in Massachusetts are same-sex marriages actually allowed to be called "marriage" on paperwork. While eliminating the word marriage and using civil-union instead, as well as making all civil unions the same, could potentially quell the anger derived from the gay community over their lack of rights, it would probably not end the hostility towards gay marriages because religious people will probably want their form of marriage to stand for something more important than gay-marriage.
The only solution is to continue to make civil unions equal to marriage and allow the semi-apes to have their word "marriage". It's all just linguistic nonsense anyway.

P.S. The use of the term semi-ape was, in fact, solely to infuriate and invigorate people that might come across the comment. It makes for more heated discussions I've found.

marisa said...

I agree that all state-recognized "marriages" should be civil unions, and anything recognized by the church should be considered marriage. There is a great article written by Alan Dershowitz on this very subject that you can find here


I would like to clarify one point, however. There are churches and faiths that allow gay marriage. Before it was legal in massachusetts, I knew several same sex couples who had been "married" in Episcopal or Unitarian churches (and though I don't know any gay couples who have been married in a synagogue, I have heard it is accepted in some Jewish organizations). I put the word married in quotations, because even though the church recognized the union as marriage, the state didn't. During the time when gay marriage was a hot topic in massachusetts, some Episcopal churches even stopped performing man/woman marriages until same sex marriage was legally recognized by the state.

Even though I too am an atheist, I still think it is important to mention that not all Christian groups have acted in the same discriminatory manner.

Andrew said...

Not all Christian groups are equal in their semi-ape-ness either. There is a ranking from semi-gibbon to semi-gorilla to semi-chimpanzee (the smartest and closest relative to human), with the semi-chimps being the churches that support gay marriage. Okay, sorry this has gone way off topic, I'll withhold my distaste for religion for another time.

Ian said...

Speaking of apes, bigfoot lives! link

So, is the consensus civil unions for all and, if you the couple so chooses and is allowed at their church, marriage for those who wish to share a spiritual connection as certified by a formal religious organization?

Andrew said...

Civil-unions for all, rather than marriages (union of church and state), are what most of us so far think is appropriate but those of us that have posted or commented represent a very small number of people. I'm sure there is a very large group of Americans that believe that gays and lesbians should not be afforded the same rights as a marriage between man and women, even if those rights are termed "civil-union" rather than "marriage".

Also, nice work on finding indisputable proof of bigfoot! I knew it in my heart that it was out there somewhere.

marisa said...

mitt romney sure as hell doesn't agree. as a last-ditch effort as MA governor, he's trying to force a marriage and civil union ban on the ballot two days before his term is up. does anyone else smell a political stunt?

does anyone think this ass has any chance of getting on the 2008 presidential ticket? I don't know who is worse...him or McCain, who supports the immediate reversal of Roe v. Wade.

Obama, save us all!

p.s.
yes, i realize there is an inordinate amount of links here, but i work in research...i have to source, or i'll burst. seriously...it happened to a coworker once. we were scraping analyst off the walls for weeks.

Wigginton said...

Now why would anyone want to get married, uncivilly unionized, or anything like that? I for one like this who anti-marriage movement. Just don't make it a gay and lesbian thing, let's apply it to everyone.

Andrew said...

Yeah seriously! It seems strange that so many people are getting upset about their right to end all enjoyment of life by getting married. Now I've never been married but I can only assume that's how it works based off of my few short relationships. I'll join the anti-marriage movement (pro-bachelorhood), as well as the anti-babies movement (we can call ourselves pro-prevention-&-pro-alternative-to-condoms so as to not be negative).

marisa said...

silly boys. marriage is so couples can bareback without getting herpes. duh. that and something about tax breaks, child guardianship, yadda yadda yadda.

jerems said...

Honestly though, I wouldn't even be suggesting this, if it wasn't something that I thought was a REAL solution. I'm not going to argue with anyone about WHY they have issues with gay marriage, but not Civil Unions, because I'm arguing with an idiot, and it's a waste of my time. What I'm saying is that right now, same sex partners don't have any benefits as a couple, in the majority of our states, that's a problem. And if the right doesn't care if they are extended to them, then let's do it, and if the wording is the REAL issue, then I think I've devised a way to get it so that the creepy people can have their word, and nobody is less than anyone else in the eyes of the STATE. And if churches want to marry gays, then great, that's a function of each type of religion. I'm just searching for a way to get past the issue, because I'm so tired of it being on the radar.

marisa said...

jerems -

I think we're dealing with a preaching-to-the-choir situation here. there is nothing to debate because apparently everyone who is posting agrees. the next step is to propose a series of actionable solutions on different levels (personal, community, state, federal).

so...anyone have the answer to what a handful of people can do to change a society?

Andrew said...

Viva la revolution! Take up arms and start shooting... Or propagandize the people who have already been brainwashed by religion into believing that gay-marriage is just fine (shouldn't be too hard). Or pass legislation on a federal level to force people to deal with the idea of gay-marriage, or full rights civil unions, and allow them to come to terms with the fact that it in no way negatively changed their lives or their ability to go to heaven when they die. The idea of full rights for civil unions is an idea that has been spreading for a while now but every time it comes to a ballot it gets turned into a huge issue by the "creepy people" on the right who start calling it "gay marriage" instead of "civil union". It's not all about the words it's also about the idea of gay marriage and conservative homophobia due to their fears about their own sexuality... hence Mark Foley.

Ian said...

I wonder if an amendment to erase the term marriage from all public law as it is in clear violation of the separation of church and state would gain any tracion...

marisa said...

let's say marriage is done away with on a gvt. level...what happens to all the couples who are currently "married"? do they need to file for a civil union, and pay for the certificate? or should we say only legal partnerships that take place after 1/1/2008 are affected?

jerems said...

Writing an initiative is very easy. It's a bit more difficult to pass it by once it's challenged in court. Some nonsense about conforming to the State Constitution. Whatever! An amendment would be much harder to get passed, you'd have to win over the lawmakers, who all represent backwards districts. Separation of church and state is a good approach. I wonder if it's ever been challenged before. Hmmmm. I'll have to get back to you. Marissa, the only thing I wanted to see responses on was the term, cause most liberals are opposed to it because it's unequal in their eyes. At some point, Andrew smoked some crack and started talking about Apes. But I'm glad you all seem okay with the idea.

jerems said...

And I think marriage as it is termed is fine for all the benefits, including all those already performed. Yeah, just change it as of XX/XX/XX date and call it a day. But the marriages performed by the church from now on would grant you benefits as well.

Ian said...

So a marriage performed by the church would grant the tax incentives as a civil union..? That seems to intrude on the separation angle.

jerems said...

Well not really. i mean you can't reverse the discrimination, because it'll never pass as legislation, or initiative. If you floated an initiative, whereby marriage was no longer a state institution, and then stripped them of their legal status, i doubt you'd get very many votes. I mean if they get married, within the church, doesn't that satisfy the intent of the incentives? Wouldn't also civil unions? Keep marriage in the church, no licenses from the state, but any non-church sanctioned union, is done by the state, and to each goes the incentives. It's all inclusive, and every little freak gets their way with the namesake.

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