Friday, August 10, 2007

Still not getting it

Gay marriage isn't *that* big a deal with me, but when I see otherwise apparently intelligent people coming out with stupidity like this:

Note that I did not have a religious marriage, thus making my marriage more civil union-like-- and maybe making me less convinced that what (depending on the route a state takes) may amount really to a linguistic difference, as opposed to an inherent one impacting on rights-- particularly where the separation of church and state is preserved-- results in "unequal" treatment (and maybe making me less wistful, for lack of a better word, about "marriage," generally).

Look, it's really quite simple: The law, as written, uses the term "marriage." Not civil unions. And we're seeing abundant examples that as long as it's separate, as long as it's marriage-lite, something kind-of-but-not-really, it has a very real impact on rights and equal treatment.

If the state solely defined marriage, and the churches did whatever they wanted in a separate ceremony, that'd be different. If everyone did civil unions, and the laws were written about that, with "marriage" being a religious ceremony conducted by churches but having no legal effect, that might be okay too. But neither of those are the world we live in.

No one, as far as I know, is demanding that the government require churches to perform gay marriages. (There'd be huge constitutional barriers to even trying.) And I agree with Liz that churches, as private organizations, are free to restrict marriages they perform to heterosexual couples, or members of that faith, or whatever other limits they see fit. But those marriages also carry the (civil, secular) legal benefits of marriage with them. And for those who don't want a religious service, there's civil marriage, performed by an officer of the court. If the church won't marry you, you can always go to the justice of the peace. Your church may or may not consider that marriage valid; their decision.

But the "let's just call it something else and not use the m-word" misses the point. As long as the m-word is the magic ticket to full citizenship, that's going to be the goal.

Has incredible progress already been made? By all means. Twenty years ago only the most radical of the radical fringe were discussing gay marriage.

But we're not there yet. And saying "something else really ought to be good enough" is obtuse.

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