Friday, June 15, 2007

That's nice!

As I'll bet any casual reader of this blog will guess, I'm not likely to move to Massachusetts soon. Nonetheless I, like every single other gay blogger in the country, am pleased that the state legislature voted against an amendment to the state constitution to limit marriage to people of the opposite sex. The vote was more than 3 to 1 against the amendment. (The picture to the right comes from the link--I happen to like it).

Again, it's nice. It's a good thing. But was it necessary?

I FULLY support equal civil rights, and any constitutional amendments, plain Jane every day laws, or even regulations, state or federal, that limits certain civil benefits to couple of the opposite sex and denies them to couple of the same sex are anathema to me. ANATHEMA (I like that word and can't believe I haven't used it yet). But I never jumped onto the "civil unions aren't enough" bandwagon.

However, the fight for gay marriage seems to be as much about language as rights. But even without equal civil benefits, many committed gay couples call their partnership a marriage, refer to each other husbands (or wives) and so forth (I personally prefer "partner," maybe because I work in a law firm). So once you have equal civil benefits in the form of a civil union or domestic partnership, how does the quality of your life change once the state starts officially calling it a marriage, even though you have been doing so for years?

Sure it's a victory, and sometimes even symbolic ones are important. But were substantive rights really in danger in Massachusetts? If not, maybe we should focus our energy on other states, like Virginia, where they are.
Addendum: This is the kind of story that is really important for gay rights. Sure it's in Australia, not the U.S., nonetheless, it's both encouraging and heartwarming. Read the birth grandmother's lovely comment here.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

As a gay I am all for equal rights...but as a Citizen of this country, I hate when we are kept from voting for a particular issue. The citizens of Massachusetts should have been allowed to vote for this issue. We as citizens should have our voice heard no matter what the issue. Massachusetts citizen were denied the right to express themselves...even if it affected gay rights. I thought you would support the right for the citizens to vote. I think us gays are more concerned about our rights (we don't have many) than the rights of everyone. I feel we should also have the right to VOTE for immigration instead of Congress & President pushing it down our throats. When we can't vote we are losing our rights.

Icon said...

Some months ago I read an item that suggested that the rights of minorities should never be trusted to the majority (or similar words.) It meant that the voting public is too fickle about such things. Our consititutional proces is slow and onerous, for a reason. Major changes don't take place quickly or without a lot of thought. We have trusted politicians (!!!) to handle this and so far it has worked pretty well. The voters of Massachussetts may yet have their chance but the pro marriange amendment forces will have to work a little harder for it. By "stalling for time," we gain more acceptance by the straight community. But, maybe it was just politics and not necessarily "the right thing to do."

Pink Elephant said...

Anonymous,

But the people of MA DID vote, though in directly. That's how a a representative democracy works: we vote for representatives whom we trust to express our preferences in policy. when they do not, we vote them out. Gays are not excluded from the polls, and we still enjoy the rights to assembly and speech everyone else does. We can vote and lobby like any other interest group.

As for immigration, I mentioned that I was troubled by the process--dead of the night, no debate. That doesn't seem to have been the case in MA. I could be wrong, I do not live there, nor will I in the foreseeable future, but it seemed like there was debate. Also, by grounding the issue for 5 years, there will be even more time for debate.

Jason said...

For me, the significance of the difference between civil unions and marriage is religious. Matrimony is a Sacrament. A civil union is a contract. They're very different. And my fight for marriage goes with the Church and their withholding of a Sacrament. My biggest problem is that the state is allowed to have anything to do with marriage at all. I believe marriage should be left to religions, and civil unions left to the state.

As it is now, the reason it's still an important fight is that as long as gays are only allowed to get civil unions and not marriage, it will always be a sign of inequality. Marriage is for the real relationships, civil unions for the inferior ones. The value of equality can't be overlooked, even if the inequality is not in the rights, but in the name.

I agree it's definitely more important to be working on getting homosexual civil unions for states that have nothing, but for those of us in Massachusetts, it's important to protect what we have too.