[S]ince marriage and civil union, except for the terminology, are exactly the same thing spiritually and legally speaking, I don't see how one can contend that “it's two different water fountains.” It is not; if it were, then the underlying assumptions concerning civil unions and marriage--the legalities and the spirituality per se--would need to be different in each case. And they are not.A thoughtful argument. But in fact, civil unions and marriages don't yet provide exactly the same rights to partners. In most if not all states where civil unions are sanctioned, gay and lesbian people have to work harder and spend more money to get the same protections married people get automatically.
In fact, what I am advocating is that the legality of a civil union be precisely the same as the legality of a marriage; only the terminology should be different to properly describe the unassailable facts. Those are that a marriage is between a man and a woman, and a civil union is between two consenting parties of the same gender.
The terminology, because English is a very precise language, is essential. If most people hear the term marriage, they think of a man and a woman. If they hear the term civil union, they think of two women or two men. Likewise, if they hear the phrase ménage a trois, they think of two members of one gender, and one of the other, engaged in some sort of consenting adult relationship. What would you have us say in that case? If the parties were committed to it, would you call it a marriage? Ludicrous. (If you doubt there are long-standing ménages a trois, see the movie The Duchess, which chronicles one such. Only two members of the ménage were willing parties, but the arrangement lasted for decades and was sanctioned even by the unconsenting member upon her death.)
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Separate And Equal
After a reader accused her of a separate but equal attitude by opposing gay marriage, Laura Harrison McBride replied: