Recently, there have been several letters published by well-meaning individuals who want same-sex partners to have the thousands of benefits that are enjoyed by married heterosexuals. But they advocate another name for the union – not marriage. Why not? Those affected tell us why.
Civil unions, frequently proposed, has received this reaction: Comparing marriage to civil union is like comparing diamonds to rhinestones. One is, quite simply, the real deal, the other is not. To use a substitute name results in meaningful differences.
Couples eligible to marry may have it performed in any state and have it recognized anywhere in the world.
Couples joined in states employing the ersatz label will have no guarantee that the union will be recognized even in neighboring states.
There is no assurance of legal rights available to those couples identified by the word marriage. When a gay or lesbian is hospitalized, the healthy partner is not eligible for the benefits of the Family and Medical Leave Act. The law that protects the spouse applies to married couples only. At death, neither Social Security survivor benefits nor inheriting a retirement plan is available to any other than married.
Any term other than marriage will not have the immediate name recognition enjoyed by marriage. One of the benefits of marriage is that everyone knows what it is, whether you are at a hospital, dealing with the government or just explaining oneself in conversation.
At the request of then-Rep. Henry Hyde, the General Accounting Office identified federal laws in which benefits, rights and privileges are contingent on marital status. Its report consisted of 75 pages and is available online.
Jack Rogers, former moderator of the U.S. Presbyterian Church, says, In a culture of non-marriage, it is very ironic that we are spending great amounts of money and energy in trying to prevent people from marrying in a way that would contribute to the stability of society. Author Andrew Sullivan argues that the denial of marriage to gays is the most telling statement society can make to say that homosexual love is not as good as heterosexual love and that gays lives and commitments and hopes are worthless.
Some politicians and clergy have referred to the institution of marriage as unchanged for thousands of years. In fact just recently I read of a Florida politician referring to marriage as biblical in origin. Actually, romance was the exception until medieval times and even then, unions were arranged or forced. Many in the 1500s were without witness or ceremony. Disturbed by this, the Council Of Trent in 1563 decreed that unions should be celebrated in the presence of a priest and at least two witnesses. Since then the process has shifted many times. Today, more than 3 million people live in same-sex relationships. Most notable has been the decline in the proportion of U.S. households of two married adults with biological offspring.
Marriage is about many things: economics, raising children, mutual aid in difficult times – commitment.
It is also about mutual affection, respect and the desire of two people to marry for love. The question is asked, If heterosexuals can freely marry the person they love, why shouldnt gay people do so as well?
Why do gays want to marry? Many want to simply because they are in love. Either they have met the love of their life or more likely, they have spent the last 10, 20 or 50 years with that person and want to honor that relationship in the greatest way our society has to offer – namely, making a public commitment to stand together in good times and bad, through all the joys and challenges family life brings. Many parents want to marry because it offers their children a safety net and guarantees protections the unmarried cannot provide.