Why won't this work? (Gay marriage related)

Let me start this by saying that I’m 100% pro-gay marriage. I think gay folks should have exactly the same rights to marry, adopt/have kids, etc. that straight folks do. I don’t have a homophobic bone in my body. I’m just trying to understand something (which might not even be true–so if it isn’t please fight my ignorance).

It seems to me that the main sticking point for many religious types regarding gay marriage is using the term “marriage.” The whole “one man/one woman is marriage” thing, and that marriage is an institution of the church.

Okay, so…it seems to me that there’s a simple solution to this: adjust the law so NOBODY gets married in the eyes of the state. They simply take the thing that’s currently called a “marriage license,” rename it a “civil union license” or whatever, and make it available to all couples–gay and straight–who want the legal protection of such a union under civil law. In other words, get the government completely out of the marriage business. Not religious? No problem! Just have a ceremony with a judge pronouncing you a civil union.

This puts “marriage” (the term) back to the churches. We all know that there are some churches who will marry gay couples and some who won’t. That’s fine. The church is free to sanction (or not) any marriage they see fit. Gay couples who are religious and want to get married can do so in a church that performs such marriages. Gay couples who aren’t religious and who want to be married can call themselves “married,” just the same as straight non-religous couples can–because any couple joined by the state in a civil union has the exact same rights that were previously afforded to state “marriages,” the only difference being terminology.

Can someone explain to me why this wouldn’t work? I can’t see how anybody would be offended (with the exception of gay couples who want to be offended by the fact that some churches choose not to perform same-sex marriages, and some religous folks who are offended that the state is getting around the marriage ban and that some churches will perform same-sex marriages. But these are kind of beside the point and tangential, since the couples will all be just as “married.”)

So what’s the problem? What am I missing here? I’m sure it’s got to be something, because this solution seems so logical to me I must be leaving something out.

What you’re missing is that it’d never fly politically, since the same folks who are opposing gay marriage now would seize on this as evidence that the evil gays want to destroy the institution of marriage.

I proposed the exact same thing here a few years ago and at least one other poster did in the last year. It makes perfect sense to me but even lots of people here were opposed to the idea. Traditional marriage is split into two parts, the legal contract components and the religious/spiritual/social components. The state needs to be involved in the creation of the legal contract but I don’t think it does for the rest of it. That is what churches (or whoever else you choose) is for.

It makes perfect sense and, in reality, as far as the government is concerned, no marriage is anything other than a civil union. The government doesn’t care if your legal marriage was in a church or by a JP. It is simply a legally recognized union that has certain civil rights and obligations associated with it. Period. Whatever religious, spiritual, or traditional aspects people assign to it, that ain’t the government’s concern.

But Chronos is absolutely right. This one dies a quick death politically. It would be perceived as “yet another assault on the institution of marriage” as opposed to what it actually would be–i.e., “changing absolutely nothing.”

I’ve been tempted to suggest taking the state out of the marriage business altogether as well.

There are two big issues that I see:

[li]If anything is easy to frame as an attack on marriage, this is it. It is right there in the proposal: the gays are coming after YOUR marriage! They want to take it away! This in itself means that this proposal is dead in the water for political reasons.[/li][li]Some lawyers ought to chime in, but it sure sounds like a lot of work to me. Surely a whole bunch of laws in all sorts of jurisdictions (federal, state, cities, counties, etc) would have to be reworked to take into account there is no such thing as marriage. From a practical point of view it makes far more sense to preserve the laws as they currently exist in terms of dealing with marriage, and just ensure that marriage is more inclusive.[/li][/ol]

I think (1) is the reason why it will never happen, and (2) is the reason why it probably shouldn’t happen. It is far more likely that marriage will be extended to same sex couples (the sooner the better, in my opinion).

Another thing that crosses my mind is that the same force that makes the word “marriage” so important to religious types is probably the same force that makes it so important to same sex couples who want to get married. Even with the same rights and privileges the “civil union” may be looked as less desirable.

So this scheme may be unworkable for people on both sides of the aisle (pun intended).

Every six months or so (it seems) someone posts this same idea. I’m not knocking you, winterhawk, for starting this discussion I just find it weird that the same topic keeps coming up.

Marriage in the United States is already a civil union. The state of Maryland, Texas, and Arkansas don’t give a rat’s ass if I’m married by a priest, rabbi, or justice of the peace. I find it profoundly silly to think that substituting civil union for the word marriage would magically solve the problem of gay marriage.

Back? What makes you think it ever belonged to them exclusively?

I’m an atheist and I’m married. I see no reason to change the language in a backdoor effort to make gay marriage more palatable to the mainstream.

The problem is that I think a lot of people have a fundamental misunderstanding of how marriage in the United States works. It’s not solely a religious institution it’s also a civil institution. It doesn’t belong to Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, or Scientologist exclusively it belongs to all Americans. Changing the name of marriage into “civil union” isn’t going to suddenly get a lot of people to support that kind of thing. You’re going to end up pissing a lot of people off (including me) who don’t want their marriage to be referred to as a civil union. Also, fuck it, I want gay people to be able to get married just like I am married.


Yeah, I see your point to an extent, though I could also pitch it more from the standpoint of “Let’s put marriage back where it belongs–in the churches.” I know it won’t work in practice (and they can still get offended at churches who choose to marry gay couples, but I don’t care about that) but if they claim that marriage is a religious institution, then great–get the state out of it. The state has no business enforcing the tenets of any particular religion, and there’s no overriding civil reason why gays shouldn’t be allowed to form the same sort of partnership we currently call “marriage.”

I did a search on “gay marriage,” but didn’t find my question. I’ll admit I didn’t look that closely, but everything on the first page of results was 2004 or older. Figured it couldn’t hurt. :slight_smile:

Hey, so do I. Please note (and I did specify this in my OP) that I’m fully in favor of gay people getting married. I’m not religious. I respect the right of religious folks to believe whatever they wish, but not to impose it on folks who don’t believe the way they do. And again, just because the legal term for a state marriage would be “civil union” doesn’t mean that everybody wouldn’t be free to say they’re “married” (because, for all intents and purposes by state standards, they are).

I think this is what offends me the most about the idea. If it’s true that for all intents and purposes it’s the same then there’s no reason to change the name.

As far as the government is concerned, it is ONLY a civil institution, and that’s right now, without any change in the law. The government / legislature / executive branches / judiciaries have influence over marriages ONLY in civil concerns.

If the government calls everyone’s marriage a “civil union,” or a “magical confluence,” or a “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious merger,” or “Fred”–so long as they don’t alter any specific right or obligation associated with it–nothing has changed, not from a practical perspective. Why would anyone care? Why would you be pissed off? They can call my marriage anything they want, and I will still be married, and I will still refer to it as a marriage, and I will assign the government’s naming protocols exactly the weight that I do in other matters (none). There would not be a single real change that would occur. It would be utterly inconsequential.

I realize I’m not the political hurdle that needs to be overcome, however. I think you’re misunderstanding the misunderstanding, so to speak, of the American people. They don’t think that their marriage is only a civil union (neither do I, and neither, probably, does anyone). But they also think this aspect of it is somehow blessed or edified (or something’d) by the government; this “extra-civil” aspect will somehow be compromised if gays are let through the velvet rope into our cool, cool club. In reality, their marriages would be affected not a whit, not any aspect of it, not in any way that the government could influence.

If the government suddenly passed a law that renamed “United States Citizen” to “U.S. National,” without changing any right, protection, obligation or duty, would you care that you were no longer a “citizen”? Set aside the stupidity or pointlessness of such a change. Would it matter to you even a little bit? It would simply be more Washington nonsense. I’d be happy they weren’t passing something more harmful, I’d still call myself a citizen, and I’d care not even a little bit. And there would be people outraged over it.

How many legs does a dog have, if you call his tail a leg?

Four. Calling his tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.

Erasing the word “marriage” from all government documents and replacing it with the term “civil unions” doesn’t change anything. It’s still marriage. Marriage predates governments, it predates religion, it likely predates Homo sapiens sapiens.

It doesn’t matter what word you use to describe the relationship, the relationship is still the same. We already have a perfectly fine word to describe the relationship of marriage, and that word is “marriage”.

I swear I’ve read this OP here before. I don’t mean the “let’s call it all ‘civil union’” idea. I mean this exact OP, word for word. Was it C&Ped from a previous thread?

If it’s so inconsequential then there’s no reason to change the name. Trying to change the name of marriage to civil union is a way of ducking the issue of gay marriage. It doesn’t magically make the problem go away as you’re not going to get a bunch of people saying “I was against gay marriage but these gay civil unions are okay by me!”

Well, it’s entirely possible that I’ve gone senile and repeated a post I made a long time ago (now you’re making me nervous and thinking I should go check!), but I certainly didn’t copy it from anyone else. :stuck_out_tongue:

Ignore the gay-marriage question for a moment. Say you and your SO go down to the local city/county clerk’s office and get a license. Then you go before a clergyman of the religion of your choice and recite your vows before your family and friends, and the clergyman pronounces you married. What do you call it? Why, a religious wedding or marriage, right?

Now, same scenario. But, not being of a religious bent, you go to the local pavilion, beautiful outdoor site, civic hall, or whatever and recite your vows before family and friends, and the judge, clerk, or whoever is entitled by your state’s law pronounces you married. What do you call this, especially if desiring to make clear it wasn’t a church wedding? A civil wedding or marriage, right?

Let’s not reinvent the wheel. Two people desiring to make a commitment to each other and have the society around them recognize that commitment is what it’s all about. There’s already a word for that.

And, because I see it coming with the inevitability of a 1920s style death ray reference, anyone wanting to discuss what three, four, or 738,601 people wishing to marry each other (all of them marrying all of them), your local pedophile wishing to marry the 8-year-old love of his life, the pet lovers wishing to marry their pets, etc.: Open your own damn threads!

Oh, hell, let’s just scrap the whole legal definition of marriage and or family. (March 2004)
The solution to the gay marriage controversy(?) (July 2004)
Why is government involved in marriage at all? (December 2006)
Government should recognize ONLY civil unions (November 2008)Marriage, gays, and the state (December 2008)
Marriage: What about this resolution? (April 2009)

Those aren’t the only threads, either.

At the moment federally marriage gives more rights than civil unions. If the idea was going to fly, civil unions could easily be instituted federally and at least some of the demand would diminish. But you’d hear screaming from the anti-SSM crowd. Remember, the Catholic Church in California is very offended at giving the benefits to gay civil partners mandated by California law.

Those who are bigots, or who are convinced that government must enforce their version of religion, would be just as upset by two gay people being married religiously in a church that supports them as they would be today if a JP does it. The definition of marriage would be just as changed. I got married with no mention of God - neither did my daughter. I actually got married in Pennsylvania where we could have married ourselves if we chose to.

The OP should take heart though - two big name U of C economists have the same proposal, and the never considered the “moral” issues actually behind opposition to SSM.

Well, if I become a widower, I’m going to marry Sarah Silverman’s dog, so there!

Taking away someone else’s right to marry results in de facto equality of everyone being treated like second-class citizens. What if Rosa Parks had insisted that ***everyone ***sit in the back of the bus?

The bus would wind up popping a wheelie?

(Which honestly would be kind of sweet.)