Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Should we settle for civil unions?

Should we settle for civil unions?

There was a story in the AP last week questioning whether the GLBT community should focus on getting civil unions rather than on marriage.
In the weeks since Maine voters handed the gay marriage movement its 27th electoral defeat in five years, other activists have voiced similar qualms about making marriage their main goal. Gay rights leaders have insisted that anything less than full marriage equality is unacceptable, but some are asking whether the uncompromising strategy has forestalled interim steps that could improve the lives of gay men, lesbians and their families.

At some level this makes sense; what does it matter what you call it? HOWEVER, what we know is that it matters. Here are my reasons:

1) Civil unions (or domestic partnerships; DPs) vary widely from state to state in the rights and protections they provide, from WA and CA where they are supposed to be "just like marriage" to other states where their coverage is incomplete.

2) In fact, even in those states where they are supposed to be complete, they aren't. In CA you don't even get a DP in the same way; a $20 notary form is not the same as a marriage license and personal interview. There are numerous stories about legally registered partners STILL being denied health care access. If you are a state employee, your DP is not covered by the state long-term insurance plan. You have to litigate every single piece of coverage to be sure they are the same. This is why in NJ a commission found that civil unions are NOT the same, and the only remedy is civil marriage.

3) DPs and Civil Unions don't cross state lines or international boundaries. They only exist within the state for state law.

4) I resent like hell the notion that I have to "earn" my rights by some sort of probationary period. "Maybe when they see that the sky doesn't fall," people say. Well, the laboratory of Massachusetts shows that marriage equality has no ill effects on the society at large. I am not a 2nd class citizen and I don't have a 2nd class relationship.

5) The bad guys aren't any happier with DPs. Look what they did in WA: they tried to defeat a law that gave generous provisions to DPs, "marriage in all but name", and they almost succeeded. In Nevada and elsewhere, Republicans have opposed civil union laws. Indeed, they are so eager to outlaw any benefits, that in Virginia you can't even draw up a private contract protecting your partner.
"A civil union, partnership contract or other arrangement between persons of the same sex purporting to bestow the privileges and obligations of marriage is prohibited." It goes on to add that any such union, contract or arrangement entered into in any other state, "and any contractual rights created thereby," are "void and unenforceable in Virginia."
Virginia is not for lovers. It's a state of hate.

The fact is, it isn't about the name of "marriage" or the concept of "marriage". It's about any recognition of our partnerships and families.

So, no, we shouldn't settle for civil unions. Separate but equal in this country is only separate, never equal.


Jonathan Holbert said...

When our opponents are called bigots for refusing to grant equal marriage rights, they counter that they are not bigots. They admit that they won’t let us marry, and declare they have no issues with private contracts or domestic partnerships.

But then the opposition turns around and proactively works to deny us private contracts and domestic partnerships.

We must demand that the opposition stop fighting us and support civil unions or domestic partnerships. Or start a national campaign calling them out.

As much as I want marriage, I’ll take the lesser option now as opposed to holding out for marriage and getting nothing until then.

IT said...

It's another example of how we have ceded to The Bad Guys the momentum, by letting them define the game.

Jonathan Holbert said...

Well, we don’t want to come out and attack anyone… Maybe we could could hold hands and sing kumbaya and our enemies will like us and stop attacking us…


The sooner gays realize this and start playing offense instead of defence we will see change.

IT said...

I'm with you there. Time for no more Mr (or Ms) Nice Gay.

Anonymous said...

If you settle for civil unions, don't expect the demonization and persecution to stop; expect it to be used as precedent for saying "well if they don't deserve marriage, they surely don't deserve any civil protection or equal treatment either"

IT - this is snafubar formerly from SP - I'm as hetero as any guy can be, but I'm firmly in support of gay rights and gay equality; and my reasoning is purely secular and logical: to bargain down or make some distinction between them only establishes that there is something sociologically enforceable about the difference between someone based on who they love.

And if that ever comes to be in this country, expect a Matthew Shepherd about every three days.

Isn't the Christian argument against allowing homosexuals to have equal treatment is that "it will set a precedent" -

...well, what precedent will the denial of equal civil rights set?

As a straight man, I have no desire to see that play out and every reason to stop it if I can.

IT said...

Hi, Snafubar, thank you for coming by!

I agree with you, they will certainly go after any form of union--just look at Washington's Referendum 71 this year.

Tho' I am firm that it's not a "Christian" argument. It's a conservative Christian argument that twists Christianity. THere are plenty of Christians and Christian denominations who support marriage equality, and are fabulous allies. Unfortunately, their voices are often drowned out by the bad guys and the haters.

Stop by again, Snafubar. It's nice to hear from you.