Maybe the word marriage can wait

Let me admit up front that as hard as I may try to be empathetic, as a heterosexual I can probably never fully fulfill Atticus Finch’s condition that “you never really knew a man until you stood in his shoes and walked around in them” on this issue.  But I still have to say that from the standpoint of political reality, the actual state of the nation as opposed to the one we would like, there is much to commend the compromise reached today by the New Jersey Supreme Court on gay marriage.

(AP) NJ court stops short of gay marriage OK

TRENTON, N.J. - New Jersey’s Supreme Court opened the door to gay marriage Wednesday, ruling that homosexuals are entitled to the same rights as heterosexuals, but leaving it to lawmakers to legalize same-sex unions.

The high court gave lawmakers 180 days to rewrite marriage laws to either include same-sex couples or create a new system of civil unions for them.

The ruling is similar to the 1999 decision in Vermont that led to civil unions there, which offer the benefits of marriage, but not the name.

I can understand how any discrimination, including that implied by a different name — civil union rather than marriage — must be extraordinarily offensive to those most personally affected.  But again we live in a world governed by reality.  And the truth is that in reality, in most places, the push for gay marriage has actually cost gays and lesbians rights, rather than securing them.

I remember a year ago standing in the voting both, finding myself surprised by the degree of my sadness, as I read the anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment that was guaranteed to pass notwithstanding my vote against it.  It was such a hateful thing: And these so-called “men of God” who pushed it onto the ballot were frauds at heart: Like most gay marriage amendments passed across the country, it was sold as being pro-traditional marriage, when in truth it was anti-gay, and intended to be so.

Not only did the amendment outlaw gay marriage, but it also forbid recognition of civil unions — without expressly saying so (why mess things up with full disclosure) and went even beyond that.  Frankly, even in my red state, I doubt the rest of that crap would have passed on its own, but the title gay marriage led it all to “glory.”

Civil union can be a bridge, perhaps not a fair one, but an effective one.  It guarantees all people full civil rights now and affords society the opportunity to get comfortable with alternative loving relationships: The term marriage will then come into play over time naturally and unstoppably.

Again, these aren’t my shoes we’re walking in, but it’s certainly seems worth considering.

12 Responses to “Maybe the word marriage can wait”

  1. Chuck Says:

    As a hetero, (& married for almost 40 years to probably the only woman in the world that would have put up with me for that long,) I really don’t see anything wrong with “civil unions” or “marriage”, or whatever name gets applied. There seems to be a natural 10% (I don’t know where that number comes from,) of any given population, at least in the mammalian world, that have homosexual tendencies. (Alexander The Great?) What does that have to do with anything?

    Remember too, “legal” marriage is a rather recent concept in human history. Even in the not too distant past on the American frontier, and even yet in many other countries, men & women, might have been “married” for months or years and had children, before a wandering minister or justice of the peace conducted the “official” ceremony, and that minister might be a self-proclaimed minister.

  2. leftcoastmobyd Says:

    I say we give the word “marriage” to the religious institutions. The state should have no interest in how various religions sanction a union between people. Every legal union should be a civil union. That means all marriages would be civil unions first, but not all civil unions would be marriages. The only civil union that is fair is one that gives all the legal rights to what we currently call a marriage.

    If a religious institution wants to say “we only recognize marriages,” fine. It would make no difference to the state, which should be only interested in civil unions. This is true separation of church and state, which we currently don’t really have in regards to marriage.

    So everyone who wants to join with another legally should need to get a license of civil union. Such licenses should not be limited strictly to a man and a woman. From a legal standpoint, that’s all they should really need. If the couple wants to go ahead and get that union recognized by a religious institution of their choice, fine, but the state should have no interest at all in that.

    Should the state grant a license of civil union to two men or two women? Of course. I figure their chances of forming a successful partnership are probably about equal to couples consisting of one of each.

    Divorce should be similarly handled. The civil union would need to be dissolved, and that’s the state’s interest. What the religious institution does about it is, like the marriage, of no interest to the state. No religious institution should have the legal right to prevent the dissolution of a civil union, just as they should have no legal right to prevent a civil union.

  3. Larkrise Says:

    If two consenting adults care about one another and wish to be together as a legal couple, then they should have the same legal right to do so as a heterosexual couple. Legal rights should not be denied to anyone because of gender. If certain religions want to deny their religious ceremony to same sex couples, then so be it. But, church and state MUST remain separate. Otherwise, which religion is to prevail over all of us? NONE. And that is the way it should remain, so that all can have religious freedom. This whole load of BS over same sex marriage was trotted out by Karl Rove and the religious right-wing as a divisive political issue. Bush, Inc. has pandered to it to get votes. It is bigoted and prejudiced, and typical of right-wing politics. A lot of sanctimonious Bible thumpers like to use it to show how holy they are as opposed to the rest of humanity. They re-define tediousness.

  4. Again Says:


    There seems to be a natural 10% (I don’t know where that number comes from,) of any given population, at least in the mammalian world, that have homosexual tendencies.

    maybe you remember the king penguins? But i’ve heard that it could even bigger, about 20% - and considering the bisexual, it could be up to 50%, think of the relationships on ships and in monasteries

    Gay Marriage in the Animal Kingdom:
    “Against Nature?” is the name of the exhibition in the red brick building on the edge of Oslo’s Botanical Gardens.

    Scientists even discovered, to their great surprise, that approximately one out of ten couples in some king penguin colonies were homosexual.

    They have also found evidence of some same-sex relationships that last an animal’s lifetime.

    And so it should come as no surprise that it is above all families who crowd the dimly lit museum halls on the weekends. The merry sound of hollering children is constantly reverberating throughout the museum. “I am pleased that families continue to come here,” Söli says. “We don’t have any shocking images here, we don’t want to hit anyone over the head.”

  5. RJHall Says:

    Well, at least in New Jersey, the reality is that if 7 gay couples had not pushed for gay marriage by pushing this court case, then not even these “separate but equal” rights would have been secured. The New Jersey Supreme Court didn’t just issue an advisory opinion, but adjudicated a real hard-fought case and controversy.

    Perhaps the most heartening thing about this 4-3 court decision is this line from the article: “The three dissenters argued that the majority did not go far enough. They demanded full marriage for gays.” So it’s only a matter of time before the line from Brown v. Board of Education, “We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”, can apply to marriage as well as to education.

    Steve is definitely right that it is sobering to see the political reality in other states of the US. The state I vote through, Oregon, was one of the many states that passed anti-gay-marriage constitutional amendments in 2004, even though I voted against it. And Oregon is a blue state, too!

  6. RickBear Says:

    I am a senior gay man who has been with my partner for 37 years. We have no desire to get married, what would change? We have registered as Domestic Partners in our state, but only to provide statistics. Our rights under this partnership offer us nothing more than we have had for many years with Power of Attorney. And a Civil Union will give us little more. The problem is that all the laws considering Gay Rights have been left at the state legislative level. Right now, my partner and I depend on his Social Security to keep us afloat. Social Security is a Federal program. Should he die I’m up the proverbial creek. I suppose this is a step in the right direction, but full equality, and I’m not even talking about marriage, has a long way to go!

  7. Chuck Says:

    I think I’m going to agree with leftcoast on everything. And thinking of RickBear’s situation, why would there be any difference if it was just a couple friendly neighbors, same sex or not, just looking out for each other in old age and depending on one another’s meager to keep hearth and home? Shouldn’t they be able to register as a civil union so as to protect one another?
    How about medical emergencies? If RickBear or his partner have some sort of obscure relative, or just an emotianally estranged one, why should that take precedence over a civil situation.
    I know it could be difficult from a legal standpoint, but what isn’t?

    Golly, there I go running off my mouth again.

  8. RickBear Says:

    Chuck, I agree. I have ALWAYS supported separation of church and state, and leftcoast has some great ideas. But you missed my point. That is that many of the rights given to hetero’s are at the Federal level (as inheritance of Social Security). All the right’s given at the state level are only within state laws. Until law’s are passed federally in all states, which has a snowball’s chance in hell right now, equal rights for Gay’s is a long road away.

  9. FreeDem Says:

    I think I’m going to agree with leftcoast on everything.

    Mark me as another I started to write that very point when I saw his post. Marriage should be an official contract period (from the state’s point of view) and should be written out as prenupts frequently are now anyway. The contract might vary according to the realities involved, not a one size fits all after the fact, as is the case now.

    And yes there should be such things that have nothing to do with sex. Even a man and a woman living together in the same house, or any combination, up to and including dozens in a communal situation, there may need to be special family rights (biologically related or not) and responsibilities, that are now very informal and therefore subject to change and misunderstanding.

    That the some religions have a special relationship for procreating pairs only, this is indeed their business, that others are polygamous, that should be their right also, as long as everyone is old enough to sign a contract. That still other religions have a special relationship available to any pair of members, that is also their business.

    The Government has no business deciding that one religion’s ideal should prevail over another, and certainly has no business deciding who has sex with who (as long as everyone is voluntary and adult) or what that means to a contract that was never signed or spelled out.

  10. Rednaxela Says:

    How about “lifetime domestic partnership”. Oh yeah, it should be federally recognized.

  11. alwayshope Says:

    There is no threat from people who only want to sactify and declare their love for each other. This issue has been blown out of proportion by a small, fearful, hateful minority of closed-minded hypocrits. If Christians truly wanted to serve God, they would tend to the hungry and poor and the sick and they would practice forgiveness. Judge not, and yet they judge.
    Love thy neighbor, but they set conditions. A real Christian does not care more about gay marriage than about starving children. And a real American does not seek to take away the right of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness from any other American. God, nature, genetics, Karma…whatever makes a person gay is no different from what makes a person musical or spiritual or mathmatical or artistic or genius or tall. Thank God we aren’t all alike! We are like snowflakes and we should celebrate that, not legislate against it. Small-mindedness and certitude are dangerous to a free society. This is a hot-button issue and a get-out-the-vote issue because most peole can confirm their “faith” and their hetero-ness by voting to “protect” marriage. It’s as easy as waving the flag and putting the yellow ribbon on their car. It’s safe to be pro-marriage. I suppose in this fearful country of ours, maybe a good start will be civil unions, but someday people will laugh at how threatened we felt by love.

  12. bluevistas Says:

    Equal means EQUAL. Not second class, not second rate, not different, but the same as others have/get.

    If we believe that gay/lesbian/transgendered/queer people are equal, then they deserve EQUAL in everything. Civil unions, while creative and a first step, are not equal.

    As long as heterosexually-oriented people don’t have “civil unions”, we shouldn’t settle for less than equal.

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