Saturday, September 25, 2004

Gay Marriage v. Civil Unions

One of the proposed solutions to the issue of gay marriage is to allow what is, in essence, a marriage and call it something else like, for example, civil union. What advocates of this "compromise" still seem to insist on is that persons in these civil unions should be entitled to all of the same entitlements that married people are.

First of all, some of the so-called entitlements aren't entitlements at all-- two married working people pay a higher rate of taxes than two unmarried working people.

But, setting that aside, I am opposed. Let's first talk about what this civil union would be. As of today, outside of Massachusetts, the only sexual activity specifically affirmed and encouraged by any government is sexual activity inside of marriage. There is a reason for that. It's called reproduction. It's called the next generation. Sexual unions that produce children are of great interest to society and to the government that tries to protect society. We the people, despite some disagreement, have come to the conclusion that marriage between one man and one woman is the best for society. A little over a hundred years ago, when Utah wanted to become a state, we, as a country said no until Utah got rid of legal recogniation of plural marriage.

We took that position for the reason that we think that children born inside of wedlock with a mother and a father have the best circumstances for growing up and becoming productive citizens.

A gay union can NEVER produce a child. Not ever. What of the homosexuals with children? All of those children are the result of heterosexual relationships, even if that relationship was conveyed by means of a turkey baster to a womb. Perhaps I should qualify the NOT EVER. Maybe someone will figure out how to turn a sperm into an ovum. Who knows. So, maybe for the forseeable future.

The legal benefits of marriage, are, for the most part, premised on the idea that most marriages produce children. Children, for those who are not personally acquainted with any, are, among other things, future taxpayers, citizens, voters and soldiers. Society has an interest in making sure there are enough of them, brought up in health, to shoulder the future burdens.

We already have a problem, without gay marriage, in this regard. A huge percentage of childen are being born out of wedlock. That is bad news for children. Another hugh proportion of children do not have two parents in the home. Arguing that marriage has already been pretty much destroyed so lets just kill it off altogether, seems to be the latest sophistry in the argument for homosexual marriages.

What few people do is look at the benefits of being married: One, legitimacy of children born in the relationship. In virtually every state in the union a child born to a married couple is presumed to be that of the father. This legal "benefit" aids in assuring more support for a child, regardless of whether the parents stay together. This is a benefit which cannot rationnaly be attributed to a gay couple.

Another is various spousal benefits related to retirement and what have you. Here there is a closer question. Certainly with regard to social security, it is a public question. All of these systems assumed that a wife would have either been entirely absent from the workforce, or absent for a long time, because of child bearing and child raising responsibilities. These benefits were her compensation, her share of her husband's income over a lifetime. Even if one partner in a same sex relationship took time off, it is rarely for the purpose of raising children.

Medical benefits: This one we really need to examine carefully because there may be a temptation to marry someone to give that person medical benefits. We need some serious cost estimates before we plunge headlong into this one.

Inheritance rights: This can be accomplished without marriage. Who needs marriage?

Community property rights. Hmmm. This is the one where I wonder if gay couples really understood it, would they still want to get married. Did Rosie O'Donnell have a prenup? I'm really interested in that divorce. She did get married in California and it is a community property state. If her partner decides to leave and asks for half of her millions what will Rosie say? Nevertheless, this is somthing that, if the couple really wants it, they can arrange by contract.

Spousal support: Again, I wonder if most gay couples knew this about marriage, whether they would still want to get married. Do you want to be legally obligated to support your partner after you separate if you earn more than he or she does?

Access to medical records, medical consents and so on. Again, this can be accomplished without marriage-- written health care directives can pretty much solve all of these issue.

So, here is my proposal, yes lets have provision for registered domestic partnerships as essentially contracts-- sort of the domestic equivalent of a joint venture agreement and lets have some boilerplate provisions for that contract in law. We do that for landlord and tenant and auto dealerships and, importantly, wills and health care directives and so on. Why not living together arrangements? But lets not make a sexual relationship a predicate. What if my cousin and I want to make such an arrangement and it has nothing to do with sex but merely is about income and property? And let the form have some check boxes-- yes we want community property, no we don't, and let's not compel any private or public person to grant benefits to such arrangements. Then I am in favor of domestic partnerships.

As far as marriage itself is concerned-- the Metropolitan Community Church has been performing gay marriages for 30 years. They just aren't legally sanctioned and approved-- kind of like Brittany Spears last marriage.

Seriously, though, we owe an obligation to our children to create a world that is better for them. Marriage is part of that world. If we have treated it lightly and trashed it, we should stop trashing it. Rather than throwing it away altogether, we should back off from easy divorce and begin to wonder again about the stability of people who can't stay married.

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