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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Marriage or Civil Union, What's in a Name?

What's in a name? "that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet..."- William Shakespeare

The dictionary defines Marriage as the state of being united to a person in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law.

The dictionary defines a Civil Union as the legal status that ensures to same-sex couples specified rights and responsibilities of married couples.

I often wonder if it is “the principle” that keeps us from getting what we really want, especially when it comes to same-sex marriage. Would it really be so terrible to have a Civil Union instead of a marriage, especially if it came with all the same legal benefits?

I realize that Marriage is more than just a word for many gay and Lesbian couples, it is the implied belief that with Marriage comes acceptance, not just from our family, but also from our church and society as a whole.

But do we really believe that by allowing Gay couples to marry that society’s negative beliefs about homosexuality will magically disappear? Perhaps it is a start, but so much more will need to be done before that idea comes to fruition, and at what cost? We have all heard the stories about partner's who are kept from each other during medical crisis, and benefits that are denied to gay and lesbian couples due to their unmarried status. Wouldn't it be better to have the legal rights and protection NOW, and worry about the name later?

Don't get me wrong, I would have loved if Proposition 8 was overturned and for California, as well as all states, to have recognized same-sex marriage. But the reality is, we have a long struggle in front of us, so why not change the rules a bit? If legally a Marriage is between a man and a women (at least in most states), then by changing the name from Marriage to Civil Union, do we not eliminate that entire argument?

When it comes down to it, you can call the joining of same-sex partners whatever you want, because in the end, it is truly about two people celebrating love, having a legally recognized commitment and having all the same rights and protections that are afforded to hetero-sexual couples.


coachsappho said...

great discussion! I too have wondered about the terms and implications you suggest. i agree too that ideally a 'piece of paper' has nothing to do with what two people feel about each other, however, over time, apparently it does, because, sometimes humans lose sight of INNER commitments they've made and need a bit of support from OUTSIDE.

here's my reactions to your post (keep in mind i'm a 48yo lesbian, from the east coast, a lesbian love coach, a romantic, now single but spent most of adult life up till now in relationships):

- firstly, the dictionary i believe has now coined the term 'gay marriage' or 'same sex marriage' right? yes, that in itself separates it out but, i appreciate webster in doing so to make VISIBLE the fact they do now exist

- if we as a community agree to stop at 'civil unions' now, what will that indicate about equality?

- i don't think straights will agree to change the title of marriage to civil union - that's the point - the word marriage is too symbolic, in a positive way

- i think giving gays marriages will do A LOT to erase the 'isms against us. kind of like the civil rights movement re: racism and inter-racial marriage - no racism, to some degree still exists today, but, passage of such laws helped to move the anti-racism cause forward much

- i am amazed how folks have latched on to the marriage thing while other glbt issues (military, hate crimes, job discrimination) have taken a back seat lately. i think again, it says a lot about how important legalizing full equality for gay relationships is. i think once gay marriage becomes more prevalent, these other 'glbt rights' issues will become easier to get.

- did you hear they are saying the gay marriage issue might again in the near future come to the supreme court, much like the sodomy issue did. and you know how that fared! wouldn't that be cool if gay marriage got the same outcome??? ;-)

- lastly, i agree with you 100% - it's about love and the legal protections and, from what i understand, civil unions as written into the law today, will never give us the rights full marriage will, given our legal structure

so, i think we press on for full equality. that is what the 'activist experts' as i call them - those most 'immersed' in studying and working on this - think. i think the rest of us 'non-experts' need to respect that and 'get behind them'. which we are doing.

keep the faith - renew and refresh - there is lots we can do now to legalize our relationships w/o marriage, but at the same time, marriage is key - legally and symbolically.

have you listened to my wonderful podcast on the issue? I interviewed evan wolfson of the group 'freedom to marry', last year on this very frustration - be sure to go there and hear his wise words - I love what evan shares during this interview.

During Coach Sappho's podcast interview, Evan renewed my understanding of why full legal marriage is the only way, why we need to 'keep the faith' and how we need to keep in mind in the meantime it will be a 'patchwork'.

DaMamma said...

I got "married" young, and was appalled when the preacher said we were not technically married because he forgot to have us sign the "License" at the i guess we didn't spent the first night in sin! But we weren't legally married as far as the state is concerned either!
So, you CAN be "married" by any preacher who will perform it, even get a fancy piece of paper - but until money is exchanged for a piece of paper with a state seal you are not recognized as having "Civil Union". Hetro or Homo.
So what's with the license, isn't that a Civil Union? If you have a Civil Union can't you just check "married" on your taxes and other forms for insurance, etc? Who checks on the sex of 2 filers? Who has the time to do that? This is insane, any 2 people sharing a home and a life should be able to file taxes as such, and share benefits. All of us can find a preacher to "marry" us. I even saw a pair of dogs get married. They dont have a civil union, however. OH and the kid thing: breeding happens outside of marriage plenty. Hetros make Homo kids too. Hetro Marriage fails 50% of the time, 2nd n 3rd Marriages even more. Plenty of kids need homes. Plenty of single people can adopt. This also should be a non-issue for same sex couples.


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