Yes! This! Do this!!

I came across this editorial in the LA Times about the current legal challenge to California's odious Prop 8 via the politics channel at The Atlantic.
What if California got out of the marriage business altogether? What if the state merely licensed or just recognized private, contractual civil unions with all the benefits of marriage, and couples went to the religious or private institution of their choice to sanctify their vows? Would that resolve the legal differences between Proposition 8 and the state Supreme Court's 2008 ruling that gay and lesbian couples were entitled to the same marital rights as heterosexuals?
I have been in favor of this argument for as long as I've had a cogent opinion on the subject. If it were up to me, there would be no such thing as civil marriage, full stop. As it stands, marriage is a weird hybrid of the secular and the sacred. You can get married by a justice of the peace in five minutes, or you can get married in an elaborate ceremony by the religious leader of your choice. The legal result is the same, even if the connotations of the various ways to get there are very different. (I know that the Better Half does not enjoy being an agent of the state when he performs a wedding.)

I am truly heartened to see that this has also occurred to a member of California's Supreme Court.
These were the questions Justice Ming W. Chin posited during oral arguments on the proposition Thursday before the high court.
For my part, I agree with Andrew about using the court to overturn Prop 8. I think it is a poisonous piece of institutionalized bigotry, but if opponents were going to try to defeat it through the electoral process then they can't mount an ex post facto argument that the process itself was invalid. It would be heartless to divorce the 18,000 legally married gay and lesbian couples that enjoyed the brief window of marriage equality, and I hope the court upholds those marriages. But the question itself needs to go before the people again, with hopes for a better result.

However, I would much prefer to see the whole idea of civil marriage scrapped. Everyone gets a civil union, gay or straight. That should be all that the state recognizes, and should confer all the rights that historically accrued to marriage. If you want to get married by your priest, minister, rabbi, imam or swami, then it's between you and your religious community and God. The state has no interest or standing in those matters. But the rights of two adults in a committed relationship together should be the same, regardless of the gender of the adults in question, and should be divorced from the religious connotations of marriage once and for all.

1 comment:

  1. I agree, civil unions by the government for all, and let the various religions define marriage. Nice to find something we agree on!

    Now, can those civil unions be an NxM arrangement? Maybe I want two civil partners, and maybe one of my partners wants four. Is partnership a transitive property? IOW, is the partner of my partner related to me in some legal way?