Civil Union: Blessing or Curse?

by Gena Hymowech
Wednesday Feb 21, 2007

If you are at all concerned with gay rights, it's hard not to feel emotional as you read about the New Jersey couples applying for their civil union licenses. Finally, their union will be considered legal in the eyes of their state, and they will be able to have all the privileges that come with that. They will get to have beautiful weddings, catered and attended by family and friends. They'll get to honeymoon. Their children-if they have them-will have two legally partnered parents, finally. It's a moment to celebrate. Isn't it?

Well, yes and no. For the couples, yes, it's most certainly a celebration. And it may give queerness more legitimacy to some right-wing people.

But for those of us who demand nothing less than same-sex marriage, civil unions may not be much of a victory at all.

One way to look at civil unions is to see them as training wheels for nervous states. If states are comfortable with this, then perhaps same-sex marriage is only a year or two away.

Or maybe, if the states see how satisfied we are to be civil unionized in New Jersey, they won't bother ever making same-sex marriage legal. Maybe even Massachusetts will consider revoking same-sex marriage, replacing it with civil unions.

That's a problem.

Sure, there are some of us who are satisfied with just civil unions. And yes, there are some of us who would be thrilled never to be married at all. But many of us do want to get married.

And even if none of us wanted to be married, this would still be an issue. Because sometimes you have to see the bigger picture. And this is what the bigger picture is: To tell a group of people they have every right married people do, except they can never call themselves married is not what equality is about. It's simply an attempt at pacifying same-sex marriage activists.

"But let's just be satisfied," you may say. "We've got this. Let's not rock the boat. The chances that this will affect same-sex marriage are slim." Well, you might be right. But just imagine for a second if all the straight people had their marriage licenses revoked and replaced with civil union licenses. Would they be happy? Of course not. So why should we accept something they never would?

Marriage is not just a right to fight for so you can wear a pretty dress or tux. It's a right that is symbolically important for the gay community to have. Marriage makes us just as equal as straight people. Marriage gives us respect in the eyes of the government, and America.

It's hard to understand why so many people are so scared of same-sex marriage. Queer marriage already exists, and not just in Massachussets. Transwomen can sometimes marry bio-women, and transmen can sometimes marry bio-men. If they undergo sex-reassignment surgery, transgendered people can sometimes marry those of the opposite sex. Those are queer marriages too, so what's the big deal?

So, what's the answer? Well, what if the marriage activists-and we-decide not to be so easily pacified by civil unions? What if nobody else waits on line for New Jersey civil union licenses? What if, instead, we all protest by the municipal offices, saying we will not accept these licenses, and that we will not shut up about it until same-sex marriage was legalized? What do you think would happen then?

Maybe nothing. Maybe people would call us ungrateful for not accepting the it's-practically-marriage solution the government wants to throw at us. Or maybe, just maybe, the government would realize that civil union in and of itself does not suffice. Maybe they would realize that we deserve all the rights straight people have, not just in marriage but in life.

Copyright Used by permission.


  • gary47290, 2007-02-21 15:16:26

    Our goal is NOT same-sex marriage. It is marriage. Prefixing "same-sex" implies the relationship is not the same as what a heterosexual couple goes. We want equal marriage rights/rites.

    Remember that.

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