May 14, 2005
Venting on civil unions

No links, just a little venting on my part.

There are those on the left of the political spectrum who insist that the anger at the Massachusetts gay marriage ruling is because conservatives consider gays to be second class citizens, or because conservatives animus towards gays, or because conservatives are mindless simpletons in thrall to a "mythology" called Christianity. Conservatives claim that their opposition is rooted in the method by which that decision was reached.

Obviously, I fall in between the two groups. I am a self-described conservative who supports the idea of gay civil unions. I don't support gay marriage (for reasons I have explained many times), but the idea of denying a host of legal benefits to gay couples over what are essentially religious objections is not acceptable to me. However, despite my support of civil unions, I fall in behind the conservatives on this issue, because I feel that (for the most part) the political posturing is coming from the left. Oh, to be sure, the usual suspects (Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, and their allies) are screaming over the issue, but conservative politicians are upset with the process, not the end result.

Let me explain, since what I just wrote may appear to be insane, based on the amount of discussion generated by the Massachusetts decision. I can boil it down to two words: Vermont and Connecticut.

Vermont has had civil unions for gay couples for almost five years now (the bill approving civil unions was signed by then-Governor Howard Dean on 26 April 2000; the first certificates were issued in July of that same year). The legislation was the result of a Vermont state Supreme court ruling that limiting the benefits of marriage to heterosexual couple was unconstitutional, and the state had to legalize either same-sex marriage or same-sex civil unions.

In the Massachusetts case (Goodridge vs. Department of Health), the outrage was twofold; not only did the court act without input from the legislature, but it also specifically excluded the possibility of civil unions, and flatly stated that only same-sex marriage was an acceptable solution. It was after this decision that President Bush announced his support of the heinous Federal Marriage Amendment.

Which brings us to Connecticut. Three weeks ago, Connecticut passed a civil union bill, similar to the one in Vermont, which extends the state-granted benefits of marriage to same-sex couples. Unlike the Vermont case, there was no court order to do so. Yes, there have been a few protests, but a quick look at the Focus on the Family website shows no press release, and the Family Research Council has only one press release on the issue. It has been far lower-profile than either of the previous decisions. Part of that may be because it's not a first of its kind; its not as noteworthy as the first two. It might be because it is a civil union bill, as opposed to "gay marriage"; Connecticut's Attorney General explicitly stated it as such, and it fact the Governor refused to sign the bill until the AG made such a statement. But it is also likely that much of the opposition to the previous two (especially the Goodridge case) was anger to "judicial activism"; in Connecticut, the legislature acted on its own, without a court decision forcing them to act. That is the way our form of government is supposed to work, rather than through executive orders and courts writing legislation from the bench. I was not particularly pleased with the Massachusetts case, but I fully support the Connecticut legislature and Governor Rell on their actions.

I have not seen much in the way of quotes from influential Republican politicians on the Connecticut case, which leads me to believe that regardless of their personal beliefs, they're not going to argue against federalism on a case where there is no solid ground on which to stand. Federalism is theoretically one of the pillars of Republican philosophy, but there has been an alarming trend in the party to willingly sacrifice it when it obstructs an agenda of party members (primarily social conservatives, but occasionally the left wing of the GOP as well). It's nice to be able to reasonably think that at least on this issue the GOP is actually going to stand by its principles, even if it means seeing something come to pass that is opposed by a sizable segment of its members.

posted on May 14, 2005 11:50 AM


What if the couple isn't gay? Just two friends sharing an apartment? What if it's a man and a woman living together? Seems like what you are saying should apply there too then.

My disagreement here notwithstanding, I like your blog. I've been here before but somehow lost track.

posted by jeff on May 20, 2005 08:46 PM

I'm not sure what you're driving at here. Are you asking if the roommates or the man/woman should have civil unions? I have two roommates (one male, one female), but none of us have a relationship with either of the others. There is no need (or desire) for a civil union in our cases.

In the case of the man/woman living together, they are free to marry if they wish (either a religious ceremony through a church, or a civil ceremony through a Justice of the Peace).

As I have said, my support of civil unions has nothing to do with a hatred of marriage; it is because of the 1000+ federal benefits that are denied to those in long-term relationships because they are unable to marry. As I argued a long time ago (in my third post ever), separating civil marriages from religious ones, and eliminating the sexual component should do the trick. Advocates of traditional marriage can still have a church-sanctioned union, and those who want a union that would not be recgonized by a church can have a civil union. Marriage is preserved (or strengthened, for those who feel that it is a quintessentially religious sacrament), and everyone is assured of equal treatment under the law.

posted by timekeeper on May 21, 2005 10:41 AM

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