Sunday, November 16, 2008

Civil Unions Offers 90% of the Loaf. Take It.

Most Americans oppose same-sex marriage. Most Americans support civil unions.

More than half the states have passed bans on same-sex marriage, most putting it right in the state constitution. Several of those states still offer civil unions.

Civil unions are popular -- especially with heterosexual couples. Same-sex marriage is rarely used even in those places where it is legal. A few states would legalize same-sex marriage through the legislature, not the court. More power to them, I say, and bless the great diversity of jurisdictions that these united States afford.

Civil unions deliver 90% of what the proponents of same-sex marriage want
. For people who want to win, it is not just half-a-loaf, it is nearly the whole meal. The rest is mostly drama and symbolism.

President Obama, the supposed "most liberal member of the Senate" supports civil unions and opposes same-sex marriage. I am with "No-drama Obama." Take civil unions, declare victory, and let's get on with life.


lbirta said...

Too much common sense for some.

nick.carraway said...

I would have to look in to what specifically makes up that 10%, but I'd have to guess that I definitely agree with your stance on this one Beau.

However, I'm going to play devil's advocate as I do so well. For those working on the EQUAL rights campaign, at least in math terms, 90% < that isn't EQUAL and thus just won't be good enough.

Anonymous said...

What if you went to the grocery store and paid 100%, but only received 90% of your groceries? My guess is you'd be pretty upset and wanting to talk to a manager.

You pay all your taxes, but only receive 90% of the rights your neighbor gets. Civil Unions may appease some and buy some time by giving 90% instead of the zero they get now, but you will never stop the fight until they get all the "groceries" they paid for.

Either that or just charge them 90% of the taxes.

Marty said...

If you want 100%, nobody's stopping you. All you've got to do is marry a member of the opposite sex -- just like everyone else. Its your choice.

But separate is NOT equal. What if you went to the grocery store and paid for an apple and an orange -- but were given two apples instead?

Marty said...

Would you be happy if you went to the shoe store and came home with two left shoes?

That, my friends, would be a second-class pair of shoes.

Virginia said...

I don't profess to be an expert on Constitutional law, but I fail to see how this is not a civil rights issue, as interracial marriage was in the 1950s and 60s.

A pundit made an interesting proposal after Prop 8 passed - what if we called all legal unions "civil unions," and left "marriage" strictly to religious institutions? I'm still playing that one out in my head.

d-rew said...

Man, its too bad that white men didn't offer a 'centrist' solution such as only counting women and black people's vote 90%. That would've been more popular than 100%

Sorry dr. weston, to say this doesn't recognize an equally loving relationship as equally loving under the law, and then to be okay with that doesn't fly. I don't think you would say the same thing for say an interracial marriage which most in the country were against until not long ago.

And Marty, what if someone had said that you could have 100% marriage as long as you married someone who wasn't (insert description of your significant other)? That's just plain rude, narcisisstic, and childish. Your shoe comment confirms your level of thinking on this issue as despicable and silly.

Anonymous said...

I still fail to see what business the state has regulating the concept of marriage. I doubt that the Founding Fathers would recognize anything we do today as marriage in the sense they understood it. Divorce, vegas weddings, who wants to marry a millionaire, etc. Give me a break. And since when are the Founding Fathers infallible. They were definitely right about the slavery thing. And the women's suffrage thing. I know that people want to argue that this country was founded on "Christian values" but we heterosexuals aren't doing such a great job of maintaining those values anyway. And no matter what the moral foundations, the official stance of those original
Founding Fathers was first and foremost separation of Church & State. I say let your church be as prejudiced as it wants. If your staunch evangelical baptist church doesn't want to marry two men, that is your religious right. But I don't see what business the government has regulating what is clearly a religious issue. Furthermore, as a pediatrician, i am deeply offended that we would limit the ability of same sex couples to adopt children in need. While SOME evidence may suggest that children do better in a traditional family setting, I am pretty sure that they would rather have two daddies than live in a group home with a bunch of delinquents. Great use of common sense America. Honestly.

Lily said...

Must chime in on the last comment. Marriage is a civl contract, and was long before the church began blessing it.
(Which is why ministers say, "By the power vested in me by the state of -fill in the bland --")
Precisely because this is a state issue, I, too, disagree with you on this one. Equal rights are equal rights. The state offers the right to marry to those who have been divorced, no matter how many times.
Why aren't church people up in arms about that and the Mormons spending big bucks to stop that practice, since Jesus was very, very clear about how he felt about divorce.
Once again: equal rights means equal rights.

Marty said...

d-rew, if you don't want a marriage that is equal to my own, that is your choice.

If you want something else -- something separate, based on gender segregation instead of integration -- I suppose that is also your choice. But it's hardly "equal". Separate never is.

What is childish and narcissitic is this obstinate insistence that marriage has everything to do with "orientation" and nothing to do with gender.

Since when? Since you said so?

Anonymous said...

"A pundit made an interesting proposal after Prop 8 passed - what if we called all legal unions "civil unions," and left "marriage" strictly to religious institutions? I'm still playing that one out in my head."

I've always thought that was the most obvious solution. Civil unions are a government matter and have nothing to do with churches. Marriages are a religious matter and have nothing to do with the government. The entanglement of the two goes back a long ways, but it's still wrong. Separate church and state. Let everyone, gay or straight, have a civil union which grants them all of the expected legal rights. Let everyone who chooses to do so have a religious ceremony with their own church community.

If one denomination doesn't want to perform gay marriages, they don't have to, just like they don't have to ordain women, but your church can't tell my church what to do.

Marty: they do want an equal marriage. Why won't you let them have one? It's not an equal marriage if they are forced to marry someone they don't love in order to have the legal benefits of a marriage. It's not an equal marriage if they are forced to give up their legal rights in order to be with the person they love. What is so terrible about letting someone have a legal marriage to a person they love?

Marty said...

Marty: they do want an equal marriage. Why won't you let them have one? It's not an equal marriage if they are forced to marry someone they don't love in order to have the legal benefits of a marriage.

And it's not an equal marriage if they are segregated by gender.

And nobody is forcing anyone to do anything. It's a choice. If you want a marriage equal to my own, yours will require representation of both sexes.

Marriage is about family, and family is about sex -- the integration of the two sexes, not segregation.

Separate simply isn't equal. How could it be?

Blogger Mama said...

First, I disagree that in states where such marriage is legal it is rarely used. In MA and CA when it was declared legal, couples flocked to avail themselves of the chance to have a real marriage.

Most glaring to me, however, is why do you care? If it's a sin then the condemnation is on the head of the sinner, not you. If you're going to say that it destroys the sanctity of marriage, that's a joke. It's heterosexuals who do that with divorce, disrespect, abuse, adultery and serial marriage.

I can be very tolerant of the religions of others until they become poisonous and impinge on the reasonable rights of others.

Virginia said...

I concur with blogger mama - an issue of civil rights isn't (or rather, shouldn't be) decided by individual voters. The opinion of the majority shouldn't negate the rights of the minority, however unpopular. If we relied on public referendum to ensure fairness, we would still have a racially segregated military and racially segregated marriages.

Citizens shouldn't have to wait until it becomes "popular" to be able to take advantage of their rights.

Michael Kruse said...

Marriage is not a contract. It is a civil status. Marriage refers to a civil status that emerges independent of the state’s action. The “marriage contract” relates to contractual arrangements between people that accompany a marriage.

Family and children are integral our historic notion of marriage. Men and women form marriages apart from the state. Children universally come from such unions (at least until recent scientific developments.) Children are the most vulnerable members of society and it has been in society’s best interest to have strong stable institutions (i.e., families) that nurture children. Therefore, the state has enacted “marriage contracts” and other laws that solidify and nurture the formation strong and enduring families.

It is irrelevant whether each and every union is capable of producing children and, therefore, a family. To investigate each couple as to their intentions or biological capabilities would invite the state into the private affairs of couples. What we do know is that all children come from male and female unions and, in the societal aggregate, children raised with biological parents do better than children who are not. Marriage and family also facilitates a number of societal issues like inheritance and property issues.

Marriage is about more than a private loving commitment between two adults. It entails the issue of children and family. Same-sex advocates scoff that children have anything to do with marriage and then immediately turn around and insist same-sex couples are entitled to equal adoption and parenting rights.

The appropriateness of same-sex behavior is irrelevant to this discussion. A same-sex union family does not have the essential qualities to emerge as family without the interference of the state to artificially create such “families.” There are likely very good reasons for the state to provide unions for same-sex persons but these unions are not marriages.

When same-sex unions are equated to marriage it diminishes the unique social good of marriage. It demotes marriage from an independently emerging civil status where people have a natural claim to the nurture and protection of their children, into a pragmatic legal construct that can be altered at a whim by the state. From a civil liberties standpoint, this weakens the barrier that prevents the state from taking direct control of childrens’ lives instead of honoring the nurturing right of parents; those most likely to have an individual child’s best interest in mind.

Anonymous said...

The challenge here folks is that same sex advocates aren't really interested in marriage at all. Other than for legal purposes does anyone really need the state to recongize their relationship? What they seek and will not stop unitl they get is moral approval. That is a battle that can't be won in courts. Legal rights are legal rights and most sane people can see the difference between morality and law. In other words, just because something is legal doesn't make it moral and vice versa. But what is sought here will not be satisfied by simple recognition of rights.

Lily said...

I disagree. Gay and lesbian couples are denied a huge number of rights and privileges heterosexual couples take for granted when they marry. (And they need not even 'marry' in some states, where common law is recognized.) Hundreds. They have to spend a lot of money on lawyers to try to make up for some of them, money heterosexual couples don't have to spend. And even there, it falls short.
If there are children involved, the inequity is increased.
Privilege blinds the privileged to a lot of the facts, and certainly the feelings of those without privilege.
Most GLBT couples I know neither expect nor care whether everyone recognizes their relationships, or the moral approval of narrow minded people.
They do believe that they should be treated as equals in the eye of the state, which shouldn't be making moral judgments based on one or another religion.

Gruntled said...

The interest of the state in marriage is that children are best raised in a marriage of their two parents. There are many other good-enough arrangements that the state also recognizes, including some within civil unions. The state's interest in marriage is not a religious issue at all.

Thousands of couples did flock to marry in many jurisdictions that allowed same-sex marriage at first, but then the numbers fell off dramatically. Most of those early marriages were the backlog of those who had been waiting. Ironically, the lead couples in the same-sex marriage lawsuits in Vermont and Massachusetts have already split up. A small percentage of lesbian couples, and a very small percentage of gay couples, want to marry. They want the right more than they want to exercise it.

Virginia said...

I hope I never need to exercise my right to habeas corpus, but I still want to have it.

Gruntled, you say that the only missing 10% is just symbolism. But haven't you also said that the symbolism of marriage is crucial, especially in the macro sense?

John Howard said...

Let's talk about that 10%. It isn't just the name, there needs to be a difference in rights. Even if all unions were called Civil Unions civilly and marriage was just bestowed by a church, same-sex civil unions should not be equal to male-female civil unions. They should be missing the right to attempt to procreate together with their own genes, which all male-female unions should have. Conception rights are the 10%. Actually, that disrespects how essential conception rights are: I'd say they were more like 99% and hospital visitation et al was 1% of marriage, they are the sine qua non, and universal signifier of marriage in every culture.

And I don't want to have to go to a church to gain the international historic universal status of being civilly married and officially allowed to conceive children with my spouse, that's ridiculous. Marriage is a civil status and a legal term and does not require a church service.

Chairm said...

The Civil Union option was enacted in California and instead of a settled compromise, it was lauded as a stepping stone to "same-sex marriage".

And then, within a few years, domestic partnership was expanded to become an explicit merger with marital status.

A localized merger, yes, but the SSM ambition was still not satiated.

The supposed compromise-turned-merger has indeed become a stepping stone which is now brandished as a weapon to pummel the core meaning of marriage and the special status that we defend for that core meaning.

It is like being mugged, giving the thief your wallet and waiting around for him to return with a newly purchased baseball bat, with which he proceeds to bang the stuffing out of you because YOU did not go buy the bat for him.

* * *

John Howard has a good point.

The differences between marriage and civil union are far greater than 10% because those differences distinguish marriage from all forms of nonmarriage.

peter hoh said...

A few years ago, I thought that civil unions would be a viable compromise, but I don't think it will happen. There is no mechanism for bringing the two sides together and working out a compromise.

Quite a few states have amendments that prohibit them from recognizing civil unions. I expect few of those states to strike those amendments in the near future.

Individuals who want SSM (or Marriage Equity, if you prefer) will continue to push for marriage, whether or not civil unions are available. There is no mechanism to prevent this.

States with a majority of voters sympathetic to the cause will continue to expand marriage rights to include same-sex couples.

I don't know what happens when there is such a wide variation of laws regarding marriage, with some states recognizing marriages that other states refuse to recognize, and I'm not certain that a federal solution is inevitable, but we're in for an interesting decade or two.

peter hoh said...

So is this the new water cooler for the folks who used to hang out at the Family Scholars blog?

Anonymous said...

Isn't it more akin to the new bathroom wall. You know, anonymous and all.

Gruntled said...

I prefer to think of it as a coffee house. That is usually where I am when I write it.

Gruntled said...

I think some of the confusion in this discussion is between marriage as a legal institution and marriage as a transformative ontological state. "Rights" are legal concepts. From the perspective of the law, marriage is primarily about children, not about the adults. From the state's perspective, therefore, marriage covers the institution that will produce and care for the overwhelming majority of kids, and civil unions covers most of the remaining parenting arrangements.

John Howard said...

From the perspective of the law, marriage is primarily about children, not about the adults.

About adults conceiving children, to be precise.

Peter Ho, I think the Egg And Sperm Civil Union Compromise provides a mechanism to achieve a stable permanent compromise on Civil Unions. At least it will last for as long as we keep procreation natural and limit it to the joining of two people's unmodified genes.

What we need is a new way to look at the issue afresh, and stopping genetic engineering is the new way.

Anonymous said...

Just take 90% and get on with life? Why should gay couples get any less than straight couples in terms of benefits? Why should a minority group be forced to settle for less when they pay the same taxes? Gay couples are taking civil unions, no one is saying no to them, but of course they're not going to stop there and they shouldn't. For those who think homosexuality is a choice you're incredibly stupid, do you remember choosing your sexuality? 100% EQUALITY is the only answer stop treating gay folks like second class citizens now! Talk about a "lifestyle choice" look at religious people. There's a lifestyle choice and look at how well protected it is under the law. Separate is not equal.