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North Texas Objectivist Society (NTOS) Message Board › Marriage Vs. Civil Unions

Marriage Vs. Civil Unions

Plano, TX
Post #: 916
I posted this over at Facebook, but wanted to get feedback from NTOS members on it as well.

It’s 2009, and people are still up in arms about same sex couples. Personally, I don’t get it. Anyone that wants to legally commit to another person and is willing to take the risk of a messy divorce should have the right to be legally recognized as a couple, no matter whether they are an opposite sex or same sex couple. I am a fan of the concept of marriage in general, for those that choose that option. I think for a healthy minded couple, it adds a great deal of comfort to know that your husband or wife is willing to go the extra mile to make your relationship work. And, to have the protection of civil law should your spouse screw you over. (Sure, I am being cynical about that last one, but that is only because I have seen or read about too many couples that didn’t have the protection of a legally recognized marriage get screwed over.)

Unfortunately, while there are civil unions on the books in many states, there is still a much heated debate as to whether same sex couples should be have a marriage. So what is the difference?
There is an interesting article on by Kathy Belge that discusses the differences.
In “The Difference Between Marriage and Civil Unions”, the author discusses the short falls of current civil unions. For example, the author states, “If someone has a Civil Union in Vermont, that union is not recognized in any other state. As a matter of fact, two states, Connecticut and Georgia, have ruled that they do not have to recognize civil unions performed in Vermont, because their states have no such legal category. “

There are other legal complications. For example, the federal government doesn’t recognize civil unions for tax purposes. It may be complicated to dissolve a civil union depending on the state you live in. And while married couples can usually get their non US spouse fast tracked through immigration that is not currently available to a couple in a civil union. There are many other issues as well that prove that couples in a civil union are not “separate but equal” in the eyes of the law when compared to a traditional married couple.

I have to admit that while I was familiar with some of the points the author brings up, I was not aware of all of them. I find it unconscionable that in this great country that same sex couples are treated with such disregard. I encourage all to read this article to get a better understanding as to what the real legal differences are.

At the same time, I can appreciate the religious right’s conviction that that a marriage should only be between a man and a woman. This is based on their religious doctrines, and while I don’t agree with those doctrines, I do think that any religion should have the right to make the decision to judge what their faith views as legitimate marriages STRICTLY on the basis of that faith. However, they have no business in dictating how anyone’s LEGAL status should be viewed. Every religion should have the right to refuse a religious marriage ceremony on the grounds of religious tenants, even if they appear foolish. To not allow them to do so is to restrict freedom of religion.

The real problem is that the government is trying to moralize the status of a couple’s commitment to each other. The government has absolutely no place in legislating morals.

Here is my solution to this dilemma: the government needs to get out of the MARRIAGE business altogether. Any couple, gay or straight, that should be allowed to enter into a civil union, a contract that would have equal CIVIL standing under law, providing the same protections and requirements to all couples. The government needs to go so far as to eliminate the word marriage and use only the term civil union. However, if a couple wants to be considered "married", than they should do what most couples do today – go to a church or other religious, humanist or spiritual group and take the extra step of having a marriage ceremony. The key word here is ceremony. As it stands now, a religious ceremony is NOT enough for legal protection – the couple can have a ceremony in a church, but if they haven’t applied for and received a marriage license from their local government, the ceremony means naught in the eyes of the law.

My marriage (with a man, in front of a judge without a wedding) is just as legal as those that were married in a church. It is foolish and unreasonable that a same sex couple that skips a religious ceremony cannot have the same protections and benefits under the law as my husband and I do.
Having the government deal ONLY with civil unions and not marriages will allow religions to keep on doing what they should be allowed to do under freedom of religion: keep out and recognize those only that they want to. But at the same time, allow the rest of us that do not need a church to recognize our “marriage” or “civil union” to still have the same rights.

And, finally both the religious right and gay/lesbian activist groups can move on to other issues, live their lives as they see fit. I am so sick of this issue, and wish it would go away – but it is too important to not speak up.

A former member
Post #: 48
Well, absolutely the government should get out of the marriage business.... but I don't honestly see that happening. Minimally, the government has to apply their laws equally. And there is no question that this is also religiousity (my word, but I'll share it) has crept into the laws.

Personally, I don't understand how this has not made it to the supreme court (or at least state supreme courts) and been handled.

I wrote a rant on this a while back. (It's written mostly tongue in cheek and is not what you would call politically correct.)
Plano, TX
Post #: 918
Yes definitely tongue in cheek Mark, I enjoyed it!

Do I think it will happen? Probably not. But I would love to see it happen. I don't see the US dismantling the IRS and doing away with public education either - but I think this would be easier than those two things.

I actually am starting to view this as a church/state separation issue. I am not sure that would be correct, but I have been thinking about it a lot today. It is really the religious right that is forcing the issue - for those politicians that say civil unions yes - but no marriage for same sex couples - they are trying to get us to view it as a separate but equal situation. That wasn't true back when they used that argument when black kids were forced to go to shabby public schools decades ago, and it isn't true in this case. (My intent isn't to bring up public education here - I think most of us already realize that is wrong regardless of the race, etc, etc.)
A former member
Post #: 49

I totally agree with you... It is a church/state issue in disguise.

I've actually tried to have a meaningful discussion with my dad on this... just to try to get a feel for what goes on in the minds of folks that are so vehemently against it. (I mean really: against gay marriage? Don't get one!) With my dad it totally boils down to Leviticus. It's an abomination. It doesn't matter that eating shrimp is also an abomination...

I've asked him if that means I don't have the right to marry (since, well, me and god are not friends). No, he wouldn't deny me the right to marry.

...anyway. It stumps me. But I guess I shouldn't try to bring consistency into a religious discussion.
Old T.
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 991
Well, absolutely the government should get out of the marriage business....

Actually, I think the government is and should be in the divorce business. A proper function of government is to resolve disputes. Divorces are often contentious.
Plano, TX
Post #: 921
I agree - they certainly can be!
However, my point is that let's let government handle the legal part of it - make all "marriages" legally civil unions (but will all the legal protections that marriages currently have now) and have anyone that wants a marriage go the extra step to have a ceremony that a private group - either religious or otherwise - deal with.

Making marriage something more social, a special recognition from a religious or other group, would be just something extra people can get if they want some sort of social standing that has absolutely nothing to do with legal standing.
A former member
Post #: 49
What is the essential difference between a marriage and a civil union?

My understanding is that a marriage is a civil union with a religious aspect. That is, a marriage is a civil union that is performed by a religious official rather than by a government employee.

If that is fundamentally what separates marriage from civil union, then:
- The government has no place treating a marriage any differently than it does a civil union.
- Churches, etc. have every right to deny gay couples the right to get married, but they have no right to prevent gay couples from getting married somewhere else that is willing to perform the ceremony.
Plano, TX
Post #: 924
Legally CURRENTLY, marriage has more protection than civil unions - the link with the article I read on has a lot of differences listed out.

I agree with you Josh - that is what I would like it to be, but it isn't right now.
A former member
Post #: 50
a gay acquaintance told me there were some 100+ differences between marriage and CU.
Plano, TX
Post #: 925
It's crazy. =/
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