Okay, so apparently my first real post is both gay-themed AND political ...
My reaction yesterday upon hearing that the New Jersey Supreme Court had paved the way toward same-sex marriage was triumphant. Knowing that other states are looking at the same issue, having even one vote for gay civil rights is a huge success. I am, unequivocably, pro-same-sex marriage in whatever form we can get it. It was devastating when our own state of Washington rejected the idea of recognizing that homosexuals are one of the "everyone" supposedly protected under the U.S. Constitution. My partner and I registered two years ago as a domestic partnership with the City of Seattle, and have started putting together legal papers granting each other power of attorney wherever needed. For us to NOT be given basic civil rights, financially, legally etc., is blatant discrimination. The fact that we have to take extra steps and incur expenses beyond that of a heterosexual couple underscores that truth.
Nothing new here, I hear you say ... pretty much the same attitude as every other gay (or gay-friendly) blogger in the universe ...
Except that no sooner had word gotten out about New Jersey's ruling than the gay backlash came. The NJ Supreme Court stopped short of saying that marriage is a constitutional right for same-sex couples, only that "the unequal dispensation of rights and benefits to committed same-sex partners can no longer be tolerated under our state Constitution" (from the above-linked article). The state has been given 180 days to re-write state laws granting same-sex couples either "marriage" or a "civil union" which would give the exact same rights as heterosexual marriage. Here, then, is where the backlash begins. Many, if not most, of the responses I've read from gay-rights groups and supporters are dissappointed in this ruling, because it doesn't give us "marriage", and anything less - regardless of the fact that it would be legally equal - just isn't good enough. And there, I wholeheartedly DISagree.
For one thing, if the NJ Supreme Court HAD said that same-sex couples were entitled to "marriage", just imagine what the conservative backlash would be. The "God intended marriage to be between one man and one woman" arguers would have thrown themselves into quite the tizzy, raising their voices and bibles and fists and demonstrating their views vehemently, causing the Republican campaigns to (again) push this way up to the top of their emotionally charged agenda and hurting all of the work we've done and continuously fight for. This would be a perfectly-timed wedge for them to shove into the forum. It would work against us in this election year - not for us.
Secondly, "marriage" is not just a legally-binding union. It is based on religious beliefs and ceremony - which is one of if not the biggest single argument AGAINST same-sex unions. Many religiously-minded folk argue that if gays are legally able to get married, than it is imposing law against their religious beliefs. And, as much as I am anti-religion (notice I did not say anti-God), I agree that this would also be wrong. The law should not force any church to marry a couple that their beliefs tell them is wrong. So calling it "marriage" would also open that second can of fat wriggling worms - not just a legal one, but a religious one. If they don't agree with my beliefs, and I don't agree with theirs, I could care less if they want to "bless" it. With the marital backgrounds of my own family, my partner's family, and friends, I don't agree with their "sanctity of marriage" anyway. As my partner (let's start calling him Scott, shall we?) both humorously and eloquently put it, there seems to be little to no issue among most conservative folks that many heterosexual people go through spouses "like Pez from a Pez dispenser", but two members of the same sex who are monogamous, loving, and committed to their unions for the rest of their lives (yes, it DOES exist) should not be able to get "married".
It makes no difference to me if it's called marriage, or civil union, or whatever. Rita Rudner (one of my favorite comediennes) said her husband was so nervous about getting married that he only agreed to give her an engagement ring if she promised to NOT call it an engagement ring. She said "I'll call it a can opener, just give me the ring!" So ... call same-sex unions a can opener. Just make sure it has the EXACT same rights, benefits and responsibilities as a marriage.
(Where IS that darn can opener anyway??)