Civil Marriage Equality

It’s easy to spend a whole day reading Daily Kos, so on most days I limit myself to only their front-page articles. Today, an article about an EqualityMaine press release caught my eye:

EqualityMaine Announces Bill for Civil Marriage Equality

At a State House press conference today, EqualityMaine and several coalition partners unveiled a bill that would extend civil marriage rights to same-sex couples in Maine.

The bill, titled “An Act to Prevent Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom,” is sponsored by Sen. Dennis Damon (D-Hancock).

Not only are the folks at EqualityMaine framing this important issue correctly, they are also cutting to the truth of what the commonly-referred-to “gay marriage debate” is all about.

The good framing of the issue is made clear in the title of the bill before the Maine Legislature. “An Act to Prevent Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom,” does two important things. First, it asserts that one or more groups of citizens are being discriminated against (gays and lesbians, for example). Second, it asserts that the dominant group in this power relationship (i.e. straight people with church marriages) is not going to lose anything as a result of this new law. It’s win-win.

The cutting-to-the-truth is suggested by the bill’s title as well. “Gay marriage” is not about gays or lesbians. It’s not even about marriage. It’s about equal access to the law.

From the EqualityMaine FAQ:

How would marriage equality affect my church?

That’s entirely up to your church. Remember, the issue is civil marriage, not religious marriage ceremonies. Religious institutions are not required to perform civil marriages, and may set their own boundaries for marriage. Some faith leaders will not perform marriages for people who have been divorced, for example, or for people of different religions.

Marriage equality does not challenge the autonomy of religious institutions in any way. Advocates of marriage equality focus strictly on civil marriage, and leave decisions about religious marriage ceremonies to faith leaders.

And that’s the way it oughta be. It’s already the case in America that marriage in the eyes of the law and marriage of the eyes of the church are not the same. To assert that all persons have access to marriage under the law does not threaten any church’s definition of marriage.

I have a hunch that I’ll get some comments about this one. What are your thoughts about the struggle for civil marriage equality in the United States?

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2 Responses to “Civil Marriage Equality”

  1. fatdaddy Says:

    Forgive me please for intentionally creating some controversy but if gay marriage is worth doing then it’s worth debating before it’s done. And I want to see how folks respond to this line of thinking.

    Jay Leno is fond of saying what does it hurt if two guys next door are gay and married? You’re in your house with your wife. They’re in their house. What they do doesn’t affect you. It’s no big deal. They’re not hurting anything. That’s what he says.

    Perhaps in the short term that true. But to me it’s like saying what harm is it if I smoke one cigarette? No, one cigarette won’t cause cancer. But 20 years of it sure will. I’m not comparing gay people to cigarettes. I’m saying that sometimes a behavior is not harmful at first but it progressively becomes harmful over time.

    I think that over the course of 20 years or so gay marriage will be harmful to society. I theorize (actually I hypothesize) that as a new generation grows up with gay marriage that it will reduce the perceived value of marriage. We already have a divorce rate higher than 50% and I suspect that gay marriage will make this worse, not better.

    I’m not saying that all the gay people will get divorced and it will drive up the stats. What I’m saying is that as a new generation of young people comes of age they will see marriage as less valuable. It will be like “yeah, anybody can get married, even gay people.”

    We all know, and it’s well documented scientifically, that children are devastated by divorce. It hurts kids as much or more than the adults. So, I contend that anything that leads to a higher divorce rate is bad.

    All I’ve ever asked of any my gay friends is that they not impose it on me. If you want to be gay, then be gay. No problem. I can even be convinced that civil unions with health care benefit rights and such is okay.

    But gay marriage? That’s a much tougher pill to swallow.

    And then there will the polygamists. They’ll say “you had to admit you were wrong when you started allowing gay marriage.” They’ll say, “you give homosexuals their civil right but you won’t honor ours.” They’ll say, “it discriminatory. Even gays can get married but what about us?” They’ll say it’s a matter of civil rights and religious freedom.

    And if you’re response is “Oooo, that’s gross. We would never allow that,” then I would remind you that only 20 years ago it was acceptable to say something similar about homosexuals.

    And then there will be the 50 year old guys who want to marry 12 year old girls. And they’ll says it’s part of their religion & such.

    So in the long term I think gay marriage will be harmful. I think it will degrade the value of marriage which has already lost its sanctity. I can’t prove any of this. And only time will tell. But that’s my hypothesis. We’ll see.

  2. Lubbock Left Says:

    I take the opposite view, basically. I think gay marriage will help the institution of marriage, if anything. That high divorce rate can only be helped by the low divorce/split-up rate among gay and lesbian couples. Furthermore, all the evidence points to gay and lesbian couples being better-than-average parents and income earners. And, on a personal note, I can think of a few gay/lesbian couples I know who set a very positive example for a healthy, family-style home life.

    As for polygamy, that is seeking to create an entirely new legal structure rather than applying the same legal structure equally, across the board. Marriage should be an option available to any two human beings, period.

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