Friday, December 26, 2008

Thoughts on Same-Sex Marriage

One issue which was already red-hot in 2008 - and is sure to get even more explosive with a Democratic majority at the Federal level in 2009 - is Same-Sex Marriage. While most advocates would call 2008 a bad year, because of the loss in California, the fact is that significant progress was made toward remaking the political landscape in favor of legal recognition of same-sex unions. More state courts have mandated recognition, there is a greater awareness of the challenges faced by same-sex couples, and the opposition is growing tired of the fight.

Personally, I have opposed the recognition of same-sex unions as "marriage" for some time, but have been sympathetic to the problems of loving couples without the protection of "marriage." I was saddened when same-sex partners had no rights to information about their loved ones who may have been hurt or killed in the attacks on 9/11/01. I was angered by stories about same-sex couples crossing state lines and suddenly losing medical coverage or inheritance rights that they depended on.

For a while, I pushed the idea of a "next of kin" rights package, which would allow the designation of an arbitrary person for hospital visitation, inheritance, etc. rights. But no one seemed interested in following that particular idea set. My impression is that advocates want nothing less than the full social and civil recognition implied by the word "marriage", and opponents don't want to offer any compromise. President-Elect Barack Obama is on record as supporting "civil unions" but opposing "marriage for same-sex couples."

What I wonder at this point is whether we have moved beyond the area where compromise is possible? The logic compromise is "civil unions", where traditional couples keep the name "marriage" and same-sex couples do not, but where the word is equivalent from a legal standpoint. But this moderate course more and more is anathema to both sides, because the wrestling has ceased to be over the rights and conditions of the couples and has become about the social acceptance and normalization of same-same lifestyles.

What do Mod-Bloggers think? Is there still a reasonable middle road here, or are we heading toward an abortion-style reckoning where a winner-takes-all solution is imposed from above?


"Nick" said...

I think we are headed for winner-takes-all. The issue is social acceptance, and until people view homosexual couples in the same way they view heterosexual couples, homosexual activists will continue to push for it.

Anonymous said...

As long as I can remember, all my gay and lesbian friends who have been in long term relationships have called it marriage. . .we the gay community have always asked, "Are you married?" And this for decades before SSM was an issue. The point is that we use the word and will continue to use the word marriage for as long as there are same sex relationships.

Nomad said...

Anonymous, Thanks for posting!

I have no problem with individuals calling their relationship "marriage". I know a number of different-sex couples who call themselves "married", but have never had a ceremony or made any sort of real commitment to each other, beyond sharing expenses for their new HDTVs. None of my business, even though I think it is inappropriate.

But when society formalizes the name, it becomes something different. It implies religious and societal endorsement of what was previously a private arrangement. This is what I struggle with.

Sean said...

My opinion for some time now has been that marriage should become a non-legal term. All couples (gay or straight) would be granted civil unions. If they want to be 'married' that's between them and the religious/spiritual/whatever person of their choice. This does 2 things. First it puts everyone on a level playing field, which is what I feel the homosexual community wants. Second it doesn't deflate the moral/religious implications that 'marriage' has - because any deflation has already occurred - and anyone can be married and the definition of marriage is based upon the tradition of their choice. Maybe it's simplistic, but I think this could work.

Nomad said...

Sean, The problem with such a solution is that it doesn't really resolve anything. It is just reshuffles the words. And if we're going to grant rights to adopt, rights to inheritance, rights against testifying against one's "civil union person", rights to child visitation/support/etc in case of divorce, rights to make health decisions, etc. then why not just call it "marriage"? At that point, all we are "savings" is a religious recognition, which is already a right. No church is forced to marry any two people they feel are unfit to be wed. Just ask my jewish friend who wanted to get married in a catholic church, or my divorced friends who wanted to marry in an Evangelical church.

This is what I struggle with. How much of my opposition to same-sex marriage is just to words, and how much is to some independent reality. Any either way, am I better focussing my effort on opposing same-sex marriage in general, or molding the legislation to protect churches and other morally-based institutions from being forced to recognize what they believe is wrong?

Sean said...

It is all a discussion on words. The religious right's disagreement to the concept to gay marriage has always been a definition issue. A change in definition is what's being asked for. Yes, homosexuals want the legal rights that heterosexual married couples have. So we give everybody the same rights, change the terminology being used and then everybody is happy. Nobody is forced to redefine anything and there is a definite separation between the legal act of being bonded to somebody and the religious/social act of committing to another person.