Monday, November 17, 2008
Marriage vs. Civil Union
I have received a couple of emails about the fight for marriage equality and the issue with civil unions. This is my attempt to address the issues.

There are two issues here. One is semantics and the other is rights. Rights is the easiest of them, honestly, so I'll deal with that first.

When I want to make decisions on behalf of my husband with regard to medical care, I am his wife and I have rights. Because we went to Vegas, paid $70 bucks and had Pat the County Commissioner declare us husband and wife, no one has the right or the responsibility that I do for my husband and vice versa. Only I can pull the plug on Michael. Our parents, no matter how much they yell and fight and try to sue, can't.

Whatever it is called, everyone, throughout the entire U.S., needs to have the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else. Until the Federal government passes completely non-negotiably equal marriage rights for everyone, this will continue to be a problem because if Jane and Jackie leave the state of Connecticut and drive to Maine and get into a car accident -- or Maude forbid, they get a job offer in another state, their rights do not extend. In addition, they do not have the federal tax advantages, or disadvantages that straight couples do.

As a religious studies scholar, it is very attractive to consider changing all secular "marriages" whether gay or straight, as civil unions as twinsetellen has suggested in a number of comments. Aside from all of the commentary that this is impossible given our society, etc., this "solution" leaves out the queers who are "joined" in a religious environment. Who gets to decide what consists of a religious marriage? Only fundamentalists get to define marriage? Does it mean that if Adam and Steve want to get married at All-Saints Episcopal and the officiating Reverend is more than happy to join them in holy matrimony, are they considered married? or just civilly unionized? If Rabbi Brian wants to join Tova and Elisheva as a married couple, will he be allowed or will only the Rabbinical Council be allowed to confer that title. If so, I know how that will turn out.

I am not religious, however, I would like to allow those couples who want to be joined in marriage to be so joined and while I like the idea of noting that, in fact all marriages that occurred in a non-religious environment are, civil unions, getting the federal government to change the wording to reflect that... well, I have too much to do to fight for the right to not be seen through this antiquated lens right now.

I have other fights to fight. As I mentioned a long time ago (2 1/2 years!!), I have to choose my battles. I recycle but I can't sleep in a park to save a tree. I do self-exams, but as yet I haven't walked 100 miles to raise money to fight cancer. I have to trust that someone else feels so strongly about these things that they will choose that issue, pick up their teaspoon and fight. I choose HIV, I choose rape and sexual assault, I choose marriage equality. If you feel strongly, trust that I am doing my part, pick up your own teaspoon and fight away!


Stumble It!


Blogger Kath said...

I had interesting conversation with someone yesterday who'd seen an interview, (on tv maybe?), with someone stating that they felt that if those in a civil union were given all the legal rights of a marriage, (such as those you mentioned) then that would be an acceptable compromise for now and she agreed with that. I responded with my thought that separate is not equal, she countered by saying that historically we've had to go through a phase of "separate but equal" to get to equality. Maybe I'm wrong, but I have to believe we've come further than that and can do better now.

Blogger Allison said...

I was raised a Unitarian agnostic and my husband is atheist, so to us our religion is a good party with friends. So according to law, I would guess technically I'm in a Civil Union then, because I got married in the woods in Malibu and not in a church? If you get married in city hall does that mean you're in a civil union, too? I'd really like to know who and what defines a "non-religious environment."

What ever happened to separation of church (or temple, or whatever) and state?

Blogger twinsetellen said...

I love this discussion. I'd like to clarify my suggestion, though - I think that all "marriages" should be of religious nature and the only thing that would count legally would be a civil union. If a couple, gay or straight, wants a religious marriage, fine, but it would be an add-on to the civil union required for any couple to gain legal rights enjoyed by "married" couples today. This would level the playing field, and everyone, throughout the entire U.S., would indeed have the same rights.

Blogger ch1c0 s4b10 said...

Marriage predates religion, as an institution that is the basis of any society that wants to preserve itself. Marriage provides a nucleus for the children that might come, so that they can be cared for by their parents.

Same sex unions are infertile by definition, so they cannot be considered a marriage.

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