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Switch of tactics on marriage splits US activists

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  1. sherri and pam 21 Mar 2007, 1:41pm

    my partner and i live in the U.S., and we personally think that if we accept civl unions, so will the rest of the world. the problem with everyone is because marriage is considered only right if it’s between a man and a woman, we as the gay community should consider a civil union as our marriage.what’s in a name, really? if we can accomplish this fact, we think the rest of the world would be more than willing to give us all the rght’s afforded to the heterosexual world. we are willing to except civil unions, marriage will be afforded to us sometime in the near future. we have waited this long, a little longer won’t hurt. because if we think about it, all we want and deserve, is our basic right’s to make choices concerning our partner’s and our families.

  2. Gay and lesbian Americans I know aren’t looking for religious marriage recognition — that doesn’t have any legal effect (plus there are many LGBT-friendly places of worship that are willing to perform ceremonies). It’s the marriage rights we are after. Personally I happen to be willing to compromise on the name if it meant that in the ‘interim’ we would be accorded the rights, benefits, and privileges afforded to married couples at ALL levels of government (local, state, federal) and we didn’t have to to get them enforced once we had them. Sadly, civil unions in the US have had a poor track record so far and aren’t working as intended. Why? Because governments and businesses aren’t recognizing them as valid. You may recall recently that in New Jersey, despite that state having passed a civil-union law, an employee of UPS was still not able to get her partner added to her company-sponsored health insurance. The company cited that they were not “married” and only “spouses” could be added to their plan (on the other hand, they did refuse coverage to same-sex “married” couples in nearby Massachusetts). The company eventually gave in, but only after a personal plea from the state’s governor to pressure the company to do the right thing. There are still incidents of hospital workers still not fully understanding what civil unions are and refusing visitation and decision-making powers to partners as well.No matter how many progressive states begin to recognize gay couples, until the government recognizes these relationships, 1049 rights will continue to be denied.Full equality (or parity) can only be achieved once all 52 governments (the federal government, the 50 states, and the District of Columbia) update their laws and apply Full Faith and Credit to each other’s same-sex unions, whether they be called marriages, civil unions, or any other synonym. A couple having entered into a civil union in Vermont should be treated as married when in Massachusetts, for example, and couples married in Massachusetts should have all the privileges of any other state’s civil union law when in that state. Think of it as Schedule 20, American style. We have a long way to go.

  3. Sherri, Pam and George, the problem with the U.S. situation is that even though Clinton, Obama and Edwards would support federal recognition of civil unions, assuming that such unions would provide ALL of the rights of hetero marriage, what happens to the 27 states or more that already have DOMA in place (for our UK readers…Defence of Marriage Act), and in some of the 27 states there are even bans on civil unions and domestic partnerships? The UK’s civil partnerships are very different to the U.S. civil unions law in that they do offer the rights of marriage at the national level but not recognised as marriage. If they were, then the UK would probably have no choice but to upgrade the law to full marriage equality, a very easy thing to do since all of the rights are already in place. Its just the nomenclature that would need to be changed. What puzzles me is that nobody is bothered to change it. They’ve gone 99.9% of the way so it makes no sense not to recognise these partnerships as marriage. Even if by some miracle, all 50 states were able to ratify civil unions at the federal level, compelling the 27 states that forbid any same-sex union, something I doubt would happen….we would still be separate but equal. Marriage is marriage, civil unions are not “marriage”, the true gold standard anywhere on this planet. As it is in Massachusetts right now, no same-sex married couple enjoys any of the federal benefits that are automatically conferred on hetero couples. A sort of marriage limbo for them.Holland was the first to recognize marriage equality in 2000, followed by Belgium, Spain, Canada and South Africa. Sweden is also mulling upgrading civil unions to marriage and I would suspect Denmark and Norway would follow suit if that were to occur. Unfortunately, this has not had the domino effect as one would like to see. Even if the U.S. eventually mandated civil unions in all 50 states, I doubt very much if that would have a ripple effect elswhere. I do think though that if full marriage were the goal, the EU would have to take the issue seriously, given the enormous economical impact it would have on business, freedom and movement of employment, and the equally enormous benefit from allowing same-sex couples to fully participate in society. I think it will be inevitable once societies realise that civil marriage has nothing to do with the religious aspect and the potential for vast economic advantages. Its going to come, no way to avoid it whether they like it or not.Robert, ex-pat Brit.

  4. Robert, you make excellent points, however, it is strongly evident that given our political and social climate and the influence of the piranhas that are the religious right, a Democratic presidential candidate could NEVER win in 2008 if he or she publicly came out in support of “marriage” this early in the race. It would be political suicide, and we’d have to suffer through four to eight more years of a Republican president (as well as the ramifications of decades of lifetime conservative judges he will appoint). I think for any Democratic president to make any significant progress on this issue, he or she would have to wait for his or her second term in office. Then when the sky doesn’t fall and the world doesn’t come to an end in fire and brimstone, we will all wonder what the fuss was all about.It could be argued that the rush for “marriage” helped in part fuel the political backlash that resulted in constitutional referenda in the various states that banned same-sex marriage. It fueled the fearmongering from the religious right that brought out religious voters in droves. The last thing I want to see is more states passing constitutional amendments.The sad reality is that the religious zealots have hijacked our country. We simply do not have the political or judicial climate that is conducive to our cause. When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation in schools was unconstitutional (Brown v. Topeka Board of Education), the majority of the Justices on the Court at the time were appointees of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a Democrat. Today’s Court is now unabashedly conservative, and even more so thanks to Bush’s two appointees and the however-many judges he has appointed to federal district and appellate courts. Another two terms of Republican rule would tilt our court so far to the right it would set back all civil liberties for decades. Any advance in marriage equality has to be done state by state, government by government. Recognition at the federal level would be an important milestone that would give every gay and lesbian couple certain federal rights that would follow them across the country, regardless of whether or not their home state recognizes the couple as married or in civil union. It might even give us enough standing to allow us to bring a case before a federal court.Here is what I see happening if the federal government recognized these unions: No matter what state you lived in, any same-sex couple in a government-sanctioned union (marriage, civil union, domestic partnership, et al.) would be entitled to receive the federal benefits, i.e., they could file joint federal taxes with the IRS, get Social Security survivorship benefits, sponsor their partners for immigration and citizenship, etc. Couples could marry or form civil unions in any state or country where they are permitted. Seeing this inequality from state to state could make for a compelling case in court.. who knows. A state Defense of Marriage (“DOMA”) would be much easier to repeal than an amendment to a state’s constitution. A state court can strike down its own laws but not amendments to its state’s constitution. A state constitutional amendment could only be repealed by that state’s process (usually a referendum) or struck down by a federal court. Every country that has legalized same-sex marriage, with the exception of Canada, has been a unitary state (i.e., no federalism). But no country to date has a population anywhere near that of the United States. It’s a different playing field here — it’s like we have 50 separate “countries”, each with its own laws and jurisprudence. While Canada is a federal state, they did not have a powerful religious right and a loyal following to be pandered to. In addition, the definition of marriage in Canada is a federal question rather than a provincial matter (in the U.S. marriage is a state issue).Your point that separate is inherently unequal is valid, however, in this particular case I think it is pragmatic to accept the legal privileges under a different name until the time is politically prudent to rename it. I’m sure the climate in the UK will make marriage a more favorable possibility one day as well. Right now here we have “NOTHING” and arguably have less than what we started with. Politics is like a game of chess, and we must make each move carefully. I don’t want to see any more discrimination written into our constitutions by the angry mob.

  5. George, thank you and I appreciate your comments. I’m so frustrated at what I see going on in the U.S. Even more annoying is that Democratic candidates, particuarly the three main contenders have to mention their personal religious beliefs while campaigning, a rite of passage if they stand a chance of ever being elected. Why is it that in a country where there is supposed to be a separation of church and state that one’s religious beliefs are crucial to winning an election, marriage equality aside? What has it to do with governing, makes no sense and why does the electorate tolerate it, twice it voted for an extremist regime? Whereas, in the UK for example and other countries in western Europe where state religion is the norm, religion plays little or no part in an election, look at Spain. I just don’t get it. Maybe federalism is not a good system after all, 50 states with 50 individual state governments, each with their own different sets of laws, there is something not right about that and it is no wonder why the US is having a difficult time to make any progress on equality. I doubt very much that we’ll be alive to see some semblance of equality laws passed in all fifty states either, not while religion is central to any candidate’s success in winning the presidency. Meanwhile, millions of gay Americans will have to endure inequality for decades to come while other societies progress. Sad.Robert, ex-pat Brit.

  6. Michael Aidan 26 Aug 2007, 6:46pm

    “If we accept civil unions, so will the rest of the world.”Please wake up honey. The rest of the world IS accepting civil unions. The rest of the world IS legislating for immigration rights for the settlement of gay partners. A long way to go – but the US is now falling further and further behind Europe and Australasia, say, or even parts of Africa (South Africa enshrines gay rights in its constitution).A minority of Americans have passports which may explain why you don’t know what is going on in the world.

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