Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

No Substitute

California State Senator Carole Migden, the Democrat who proposed California's original domestic partnership law in 1999 when she served in the State Assembly, has proposed again to expand the law to include unmarried heterosexual couples. She tried to do so last year (she had wanted that provision to be part of the original domestic partnership bill) but then-Governor Gray Davis balked at it.

Naturally, the self-proclaimed "Family First" crowd accuses Senator Migden--herself a lesbian--of advocating a watered-down substitute that would weaken the institution of marriage in general. And I smile and think, "Ha! See how insulted you feel at being offered domestic partnerships? I guess they are a pretty lame substitute for marriage, aren't they."

In 2005, the California Supreme Court annulled Senator Migden's marriage to her long-time partner on technical grounds, along with those of 4,000 other couples wed in San Francisco. It is no accident that she re-ignites this debate at the very moment when that same court is finally considering the constitutionality of denying marriage to same-sex couples.


Raised By Republicans said...

It seems to me that the obvious solution to this is to simply make a stark distinction between the official aspect of mariage (which would be determined by the state) and the spiritual aspects (which would be left entirely to individual churchs, temples, mosques and flying spaghetti landing strips).

That way, the Bigots For Jesus could content themselves with banning gay mariage in their own church and the Unitarians, Episcopaleans (some of them anyway), and others could marry whom ever they like however they like.

That the religious communities balk at this exposes their real agenda which is to impose their views on others.

Dr. Strangelove said...

In the United States, there is already a stark distinction. The government alone determines who is permitted to marry whom. The government determines who may divorce whom, and under what terms. Some non-governmental individuals are licensed to perform the wedding ceremony--that is all.

Regulation of marriage is one of the only instances I can think of where the state has completely expropriated what used to be a church function. And this takeover has been problematic with the churches for a long time. Some churches wanted to practice polygamy or sanction underage marriages, but those are crimes now. Some churches used to sanction interracial marriages when those were crimes. Some churches used to forbid divorce but the government allows it for everyone now. Bigots for Jesus can kick out a member who marries against their will, but they cannot stop the marriage. And atheists can marry freely without any church blessing at all.

This fight is not about dividing the civil from the religious aspects of marriage. That train has already left the station. The only issue here is respect--respect for gays and lesbians, and for their relationships. In most places in America today, most heterosexual people give some measure of respect to homosexual people--certainly a lot more than they did a generation ago--but they still do not quite consider gays and lesbians to be equals, nor do they consider gay and lesbian relationships to be quite equal to their own. As this changes, the law will change. Simple as that, I think.

Pombat said...

RbR - imposition of views - yep, spot on I'd say! But separating the legal and spiritual aspects of marriage isn't the solution I don't think.

Dr S - I agree with everything you've said in this last comment, as you well know, and that respect is key, as it is in any interaction between people.

However, I think you missed the point somewhat in your original post: your second paragraph, where you talk about the insult you believe the "Family First" lot are responding to. I don't think they're insulted in the way you think - they don't want domestic partnerships for themselves, because they can already get married. I think that what they want is for NO-ONE else to be able to get domestic partnerships, straight or gay, because if you're going to be in a committed relationship, you should be married, and nothing else should be recognised, because marriage is for them the only 'proper' relationship. You can probably guess where I stand on this (*glances at soapbox*).

In Aus, 'de facto marriages' are recognised, to the point that they can be used to obtain a Spouse visa for entry into the country, with the box to be ticked being the "you are married or in a de facto marriage" one - complete equal weighting there (I know a great deal about the visa process at present!). I'd have to nudge Spotted H, but I believe this recognition extends across all the usual legal gumph too, so that de facto marriages are just as strongly regarded by the powers that be as 'normal' ones are.

That said, it seems most people still want to get married, regardless of whether they're religious or not, possibly simply because society as a whole conditions us to want to get married - we want to have that wedding day, with all our friends&family, and the chance to *really* publicly state lifelong commitment and devotion.

And that's all anyone (including "Family First") should need to see in a relationship to know it's right.

The Law Talking Guy said...

What we call "common law marriages" also exist in the United States, or in some of them. Family law varies wildly from state to state. For example, common law (de facto) marriages exist in many states upon proof of cohabitation for 5 or 7 years, in Colorado upon any public declaration that man and woman are married, but are forbidden in California, Arizona, and other states formerly under Spanish rule.

I would not like to see state regulation of marriage to end. The legal protections of marriage are very important, as is the whole field of family law.

Separating civil marriage from religious marriage has long been the tradition in post-Napoleonic Catholic countries, but has not prevented tyranny.

Gay marriage will take a while to graft onto the existing legal system. I'm glad Massachussetts is trying it out. That's the genius of the 'laboratories of democracy' in our states. I think gay marriage will spread unexpectedly quickly in about 10 years or so. Indeed, so much has already changed so quickly. When I was in college 18 years ago, gay marriage was a total joke, and now it's becoming reality in so many places.

Dr. Strangelove said...

Pombat--you're right... I did not explain the "Family First" objection correctly. They aren't insulted by it in the way I implied. The point I was trying to make is just that they obviously consider a domestic partnership is no substitute for a marriage... So don't believe anyone who tries to tell you it's "good enough."

The Law Talking Guy said...

I agree that domestic partnership is an unacceptable "separate but equal" solution. However, I think it should be viewed in historical context. It's a dramatic step forward, and it provides some form of public recognition of gay and lesbian relationships. I would not accuse anyone who accepted such a domestic partnership as somehow being an Uncle Tom. After all, given its cultural baggage, it was not always obvious to gay and lesbian people that marriage as an institution could be made amenable to their needs.

Dr. Strangelove said...

Yes, LTG--domestic partnership is truly a dramatic step forward. I'm happy that people around the country have worked to make it happen. Domestic partnership law is certainly a huge step up from Bowers v. Hardwick, just 22 years ago! And I believe you are right to say time is on the side of same-sex marriage.

The Law Talking Guy said...

If only people under 30 could vote, gay marriage would win. In 20 years, that will be the majority. It is worth noting that interracial marriage was opposed by a solid majority of Americans right into the 1970s according to various polling data I've found but can't find links for right now.