Writing in the NY Times, Katherine Franke says,
While many in our community have worked hard to secure the right of same-sex couples to marry, others of us have been working equally hard to develop alternatives to marriage. For us, domestic partnerships and civil unions aren’t a consolation prize made available to lesbian and gay couples because we are barred from legally marrying. Rather, they have offered us an opportunity to order our lives in ways that have given us greater freedom than can be found in the one-size-fits-all rules of marriage.Now, in France (as I've discussed), there is a civil union option that is widely viewed as "marriage lite", called a PAC. For political reasons, it is offered to both straight and gay couples (marriage is restricted to the straight couples only). The rate of marriage has dropped as straights have availed themselves of this option, preferring something less permanent-seeming than Real Marriage. That's the option preferred by Franke, who is worried that she will lose DP benefits and be forced to marry.
It’s not that we’re antimarriage; rather, we think marriage ought to be one choice in a menu of options by which relationships can be recognized and gain security. Like New York City’s mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg, who has been in a relationship for over 10 years without marrying, one can be an ardent supporter of marriage rights for same-sex couples while also recognizing that serious, committed relationships can be formed outside of marriage.
Here’s why I’m worried: Winning the right to marry is one thing; being forced to marry is quite another.
I admit, I'm confused. Why would you "settle" for something less than marriage? Franke again:
As strangers to marriage for so long, we’ve created loving and committed forms of family, care and attachment that far exceed, and often improve on, the narrow legal definition of marriage. Many of us are not ready to abandon those nonmarital ways of loving once we can legally marry.
Of course, lots of same-sex couples will want to marry as soon as they are allowed to, and we will congratulate them when they do even if we ourselves choose not to. But we shouldn’t be forced to marry to keep the benefits we now have, to earn and keep the respect of our friends and family, and to be seen as good citizens.
I wonder how much of this is related to LGBT folks of a Certain Age, particularly women who have ordered their lives in a way that goes against the patriarchal history of marriage. They've rejected that meaning of marriage because of that baggage. And maybe it's because of my age (although I'm not that young), but I just don't get it.
I want to be married. To me, the DP is a second rate option. And thus, I have no issue with certain legal benefits accruing to those willing to make that commitment, as long as all people straight or gay have the opportunity to do so. I don't want to live in the ghetto of "not willing to take that step".
To me,why WOULDN'T you marry, if it is legal? I leapt at the opportunity to participate in the process with my beloved, and every morning I wake up so grateful that I could. I wonder if it's a generational thing, or reflecting that fact that I have always been "assimilated" and not really connected to a "gay identity" or "lesbian identity" until the marriage issue came up.
Interestingly, Linda Hirsch thinks that marriage equality for LGBT people will mean more equal straight marriages too. Thus, that whole patriarchal notion is taking a hit.
Same-sex marriage represents the possibility that marriage can be an equal deal after all—or at least one where inequality is not locked in at birth. The conservatives are right: Same-sex marriage will change opposite-sex marriage. And it's a good thing, too.
….At each point along the road to women's equality, conservatives defended heterosexual marriage inequality on the grounds that women were naturally suited only for certain kinds of lives….
… W. Bradford Wilcox, a sociologist at the University of Virginia and resident scholar at the Institute for American Values, argued that "women are not happier in marriages marked by egalitarian practices and beliefs." ….More church attendance, higher male earnings, and lower female expectations are instead the key to family happiness, Wilcox concludes.
Turnabout is fair play. As the arguments for heterosexual marriage inequality were used to fight same-sex marriage, so the success of same-sex marriage is a living refutation of the argument that marriage requires congenital natural inequality with women on the bottom. Even the campaign for same-sex marriage, consisting of a torrent of moving stories about the happy same-sex couples who want to get married, is a feminist windfall. Maybe marital equality and happiness aren't so incompatible after all.
So opening marriage to committed couples without the baggage of fixed gender roles will be good for everyone. And the baggage with which some people view marriage will be ameliorated.
Is there a state interest in supporting marriage over DPs, assuming that each is equally available? Should DPs continue to be available if (when) marriage is open to all couples?