Mass. Rules In Favor Of Same-Sex Marriages
November 18, 2003 7:24 AM   Subscribe

Mass. Rules In Favor Of Same-Sex Marriages. The highest court in Massachusetts has ruled that same-sex couples are legally entitled to wed under the state constitution, but stopped short of immediately allowing marriage licenses to be issued to the seven couples who challenged the law. The court is giving the Legislature 180 days to "take such action as it may deem appropriate in light of this decision."
posted by Stynxno (125 comments total)

 
It's great news, but civil unions (which is what they'll end up with in mass.) are not equal to legal marriage unless they include every single right a straight person who gets married has--and that means we need a federal law, not this state-by-state thing.
posted by amberglow at 7:30 AM on November 18, 2003


Way to go, Chief Justice Margaret Marshall! Despite the flaws, this is an important opinion...amberglow, I agree civil unions are imperfect, but they're better than nothing *to start with.* "this state-by-state thing" is the only way to do it, thanks to the Constitution -- the federal government does not have direct jurisdiction over marriage, probate, etc. i'd rather take a half-step forward than no steps at all. and even though Finneran & Co. in the Mass legislature are ready to veto us back to the imaginary 1950's, there is a strong Equal Marriage coalition here and there will be much demonstrating in the coming weeks...bring it on!
posted by serafinapekkala at 7:40 AM on November 18, 2003


Good news!

and that means we need a federal law

And that means we need a President sans head up his daddy's ass, or at least one the people elect.
posted by tr33hggr at 7:46 AM on November 18, 2003


Hallelujah!! I am so excited! Yes, we've got a long way to go, but what an important first step. YEAH!! And with the regime change next year, federal changes aren't far behind. (think positive, think positive, think positive)
posted by widdershins at 7:50 AM on November 18, 2003


:::Dons Hooters™ t-shirt, confederate flag bandanna and tight white jeans:::

"Hey, it's supposed to be Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve! Hyuk, hyuk"

Kidding. This is great news, of course. Albeit total equality with traditional marriages might be a slow road. One step at a time.
posted by dhoyt at 7:51 AM on November 18, 2003


fuck tradition. I want federal rights with my legally contracted life partner or I want everyone to lose them. It's really that simple.
posted by archimago at 8:03 AM on November 18, 2003


While I salute the Court, I think we're all about to see a big push to get that Constitutional Amendment passed.

Of course, this may very well push gay marriage into a campaign issue all by itself. I guarantee you the dust won't be settled on this by November next year.
posted by Swifty at 8:10 AM on November 18, 2003


and that means we need a federal law

That would be nice, but individual state decisions would be better in the short term to establish local consensus and lend credibility to the cause. Courageous state courts and legislatures are doing their part to raise the issue; the issue will drive other states to do the same; a strong majority of states will drive federal policy in the long term.

The civil rights efforts of the 1950s and 1960s arose in part out of a consensus of the majority of the states against segregation. If only Hawaii, Vermont, and Massachusetts had had nonsegregation policies when Eisenhower sent marshals to open the school doors in Little Rock, the act would have been just as noble - but probably nowhere near as successful.
posted by PrinceValium at 8:12 AM on November 18, 2003


Here comes the culture war. The Christian Coalition has said that gay marriage is a bigger issue to them than abortion.

How'll Bush play this one? Support the Christian Right or the Libertarians?
posted by gramcracker at 8:18 AM on November 18, 2003


How'll Bush play this one? Support the Christian Right or the Libertarians?

Yikes is there any question? I'm sure Bush woke up to the words, "Mr. President, Rick Santorum is on the line and he's pissed..."
posted by Bag Man at 8:23 AM on November 18, 2003


gramcracker, he's already on record as opposing gay marriage and (I believe) supporting a constitutional amendment banning it. What remains to be seen is whether that's a political benefit or liability come November 2004. I'd like to think it would be a liability, but it's a close call. This September ABC poll showed most Americans opposed gay marriages, but also wouldn't support a constitutional amendment.
posted by pardonyou? at 8:24 AM on November 18, 2003


How'll Bush play this one? Support the Christian Right or the Libertarians?

Since fear is the tool he manipulates again and again (with great success), he will jump at the chance to play on people's fear of homosexuals and the "threat" to heterosexual marriage.
posted by rushmc at 8:25 AM on November 18, 2003


I'm sure Bush woke up to the words, "Mr. President, Rick Santorum is on the line and he's pissed..."

"...and he also wants you to talk dirty to him."
posted by jonmc at 8:26 AM on November 18, 2003


Is a constitutional amendment something Dean runs with through next November, or is he mainstream enough now to stay quiet?
posted by jmgorman at 8:27 AM on November 18, 2003


While I'm as happy as others seem to be about this outcome, we should perhaps take this vcitory with a grain of salt: they didn't say "issue the licenses," they said, "the legislature has to decide." It doesn't sound from the rest of that article like the legislature is going to legalize same sex marriage, it sounds like they're on the brink of prohibiting it. Any MeFites in Massachusetts have a better sense of local feeling?
posted by JollyWanker at 8:27 AM on November 18, 2003


How'll Bush play this one?

Oh, that's easy. Everyone knows that any fees paid for gay marriage licenses go to support terrorists. Haven't you seen the ads? Oh, well... you will.
posted by Swifty at 8:28 AM on November 18, 2003


From the court's opinion:

Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support; it brings stability to our society. For those who choose to marry, and for their children, marriage provides an abundance of legal, financial, and social benefits. In return it imposes weighty legal, financial, and social obligations. The question before us is whether, consistent with the Massachusetts Constitution, the Commonwealth may deny the protections, benefits, and obligations conferred by civil marriage to two individuals of the same sex who wish to marry. We conclude that it may not. The Massachusetts Constitution affirms the dignity and equality of all individuals. It forbids the creation of second-class citizens. In reaching our conclusion we have given full deference to the arguments made by the Commonwealth. But it has failed to identify any constitutionally adequate reason for denying civil marriage to same-sex couples.
posted by widdershins at 8:36 AM on November 18, 2003


One small step for Mass.
One giant step for the gay underclass!
posted by troybob at 8:38 AM on November 18, 2003


I live and work in the South End, Boston's most prominent gay neighborhood. People are already hugging and giving high fives in the street.

I love Massachusetts even more now.

disclaimer: Mayor Curley is not gay.
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:40 AM on November 18, 2003


The Massachusetts Constitution affirms the dignity and equality of all individuals. It forbids the creation of second-class citizens.

This is the best thing I've read all year.
posted by archimago at 8:47 AM on November 18, 2003


I live and work in the South End, Boston's most prominent gay neighborhood.

I thought the South End was where the "shanty irish" lived. They must be pissed.
posted by jonmc at 8:51 AM on November 18, 2003


While I salute the Court, I think we're all about to see a big push to get that Constitutional Amendment passed.

The House of Representatives is crazy nuts, I'll grant you that. But there is no way that, when push comes to shove, 67 U.S. senators and 38 state legislatures will ratify such a stupid thing. So I think the state civil union laws are, for all intents and purposes, a done deal. Go Massachusetts. Wicked pissa!
posted by PrinceValium at 8:52 AM on November 18, 2003


Ewww, does this mean that, like, dudes are gonna do other dudes?
posted by xmutex at 8:53 AM on November 18, 2003


Any MeFites in Massachusetts have a better sense of local feeling?

Everyone's very excited, but I'm wary. I'm pretty sure that the state legislature will pass the amendment to define "marriage" as a union between one man and one woman.

I'm hoping, however, that defining marriage that way will be enough to placate the detractors. Maybe, as long as they feel that Marriage is "safe", they'll open the door to civil unions.
posted by jpoulos at 8:55 AM on November 18, 2003


New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick celebrates the ruling with Dallas Cowboys coach Bill Parcells.
posted by pardonyou? at 8:57 AM on November 18, 2003


I heard that Mayor Curley is gay.
posted by xmutex at 8:59 AM on November 18, 2003


For those inclined to make their voices heard, here is the contact information for the Massachusetts Senate and House.

(The area code for all these phone numbers is 617.)
posted by jpoulos at 9:00 AM on November 18, 2003


>I thought the South End was where the "shanty irish" lived. They must be pissed.

The South End and South Boston are different neighborhoods.
posted by McBain at 9:03 AM on November 18, 2003


I really don't get the whole no-gay-marriage thing. It's one thing if you don't like it, but another thing to oppose it. I mean, laws are separate from one's feelings, right? So how can one possibly be opposed to it on legal grounds? Remember that you can't just get married in a church for the government to accept it, you also need a license to make it legal.

Like the opinion said, The Massachusetts Constitution affirms the dignity and equality of all individuals. It forbids the creation of second-class citizens.

Oh, and I remember Dean responding to a question on how he feels about gay marriage and him responding with something like "I never thought about it before." I almost spit out my coffee on that one.
posted by evening at 9:06 AM on November 18, 2003


The article is encouraging, but the associated survey* is not.
As of right now, 58% of their web visitors are saying this is a "bad thing for families."

* - (no direct link, so you're just going to have to go to the article and click on the results yourself)
posted by grabbingsand at 9:11 AM on November 18, 2003


The South End and South Boston are different neighborhoods.

Yuh. If you're making travel plans based on mayor curley's info, I strongly suggest you get that idea clear in your head, lest you try high-fiving one of the younger Walbergh siblings by mistake.
posted by yerfatma at 9:12 AM on November 18, 2003


But the South End was a largely Irish ghetto for a time. The real Mayor Curley was a South Ender.

But as far as I can see, the "South Ender" South Enders are very animated with their happiness at the ruling. As are the rest of us.

However, Boston Proper, Brookline, Cambridge, the Metro West and the Cape are likely to be the only communities that are largely pleased. The North Shore and South Shore are rather socially conservative, and the central and western parts of the state have more in common with Maine and New Hampshire than Greater Boston.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:20 AM on November 18, 2003


New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick celebrates the ruling with Dallas Cowboys coach Bill Parcells.

Damn those sinful homos. First they've destroyed the sanctity of marriage, now they want to take something as decent and wholesome as burly men in spandex grappling and slapping ass and make it all queer and shit.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:24 AM on November 18, 2003


But the South End was a largely Irish ghetto for a time.

True, but today "ghetto" is the last word I'd use to describe the beautiful South End. I live in Fenway, where there is also a large gay population, and work in Cambridge. People around here will be pretty ecstatic.
posted by McBain at 9:26 AM on November 18, 2003


The North Shore and South Shore are rather socially conservative

Not up here in the Witch City with all the Pagans ;)
posted by bkdelong at 9:31 AM on November 18, 2003


The article in question has a pretty screwy headline me thinks. It might be more accurately said that the court ruled against the idea of second class citizenship for gays. If it had ruled in favor of gay marriage it wouldn't have sent it back to the legislature.
posted by filchyboy at 9:35 AM on November 18, 2003


It doesn't sound from the rest of that article like the legislature is going to legalize same sex marriage, it sounds like they're on the brink of prohibiting it.

Hawaii got to the same point. The courts said prohibition was against the law, so the legislature - under the auspices of a public referendum (that gay marriage opponents knew they'd win) - changed the law. It was an ugly fight, too. Television ads with a "WTF" tone charging, "If I can marry a man, does that mean I can marry my dog?" Voters approved an amendment to the constitution reserving marriage to opposite-sex couples in 1998 by almost 70 percent.

Hawaii has a reputation as a Democratic, liberal state, but when push comes to shove, conservatives really rule this roost. I'm not sure how it is in Massachusetts, whether the legislature will act or resort to a vote or polls, and how such polls would turn out. But I'll be rooting for Marshall's ruling in any case.
posted by pzarquon at 9:37 AM on November 18, 2003


Can this ruling find itself in the US Supreme Court somehow, or do we have to wait for a specific type of scenario?

If so, it would be interesting to see what happens. Scalia could perhaps be asked to recuse himself with good reason, but even if he didn't on such a ruling, it was he himself who said in the argument against the Texas sodomy law...

"If moral disapprobation of homosexual conduct is "no legitimate state interest" for purposes of proscribing that conduct; and if, as the Court coos (casting aside all pretense of neutrality), "when sexuality finds overt expression in intimate conduct with another person, the conduct can be but one element in a personal bond that is more enduring"; what justification could there possibly be for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples exercising "the liberty protected by the Constitution"?"

What justification indeed?
posted by insomnia_lj at 9:39 AM on November 18, 2003


True, but today "ghetto" is the last word I'd use to describe the beautiful South End.

ghet·to 1. A section of a city occupied by a minority group who live there especially because of social, economic, or legal pressure.
posted by yerfatma at 9:53 AM on November 18, 2003


I vote for a ban on all marriage! (Yeah, mine didn't work, but I'm not bitter!)

Seriously though, this is awsome. I'm for anything that represents progressive thought and most of all tolerance. Will legally recognized gay marriages also require health insurance companies to treat partners the same way they do straight couples?

And oh, divorce lawyers must be licking their chops with all the new biz this could generate! :)
posted by LouReedsSon at 10:06 AM on November 18, 2003


Congratulations, U.S.ians. The war is not over but the right side won this particular battle.

I actually wouldn't expect that Dean or whoever else gets the nomination to come out [cough] as a supporter of gay marriage - he'd just lose too many votes (though to say he never thought about it? Wtf? Find a better way to deflect attention from that issue.) It may be a better strategy to just keep quiet about that particular issue and then bring it up after he's elected. It might seem like cowardice but it's really just pragmatism.

And now, thanks to your little ghetto digression I have that Elvis song playing in my head.
posted by orange swan at 10:07 AM on November 18, 2003


I just got back from the press conference with the plaintiffs. According to the lead attorney, this is marriage, nothing more or less. This is not civil unions.

She went on to say that there was nothing the legislature could do to block this. The 180 day waiting period is to give them time to clean up forms, etc, but that there isn't a mechanism that can be used bythe state legislature to block same-sex marriages from taking place in massachusetts in 180 days.

Woo hoo!
posted by alms at 10:13 AM on November 18, 2003


alms, can you give us more info? How can the legislature not block it? If the referendum passes to add a man/woman only amendment to the MA constitution, then MA would be in the same boat as HI and AK, wouldn't it?
posted by widdershins at 10:19 AM on November 18, 2003


My understanding is that the earliest a referendum could take place is 2006.
posted by paddbear at 10:24 AM on November 18, 2003


Perhaps the six months is to see whether hellfire will scour Massachusetts from the Earth?
posted by biffa at 10:25 AM on November 18, 2003


insomnia_lj: Can this ruling find itself in the US Supreme Court somehow, or do we have to wait for a specific type of scenario?

If the ruling was based on the Mass. state constitution, there's no basis for Supreme Court review, since federal law or the federal Constitution is not in play.

As far as Congress goes, I think serafina is right that they would have a tough time messing with this ruling, given that regulation of a state's marraige laws is probably outside of Congress's ennumerated powers. But I'm sure they could still refuse to grant any federal benefits to gay couples married in Mass. Also, don't we already have a law at the federal level that allows states to refuse to recognize civil unions performed in other states?
posted by boltman at 10:26 AM on November 18, 2003


Well, i think this has to go to the Supremes, especially if as alms says, this mass. thing really is marriage. If a gay couple marries in Mass, and moves to NY, what happens? If a straight couple marries in Mass and moves to another state, that state automatically recognizes the marriage as legal. State-by-state may be fine for now, as people seem to think, but many of the rights and responsibilities aren't state laws, but federal.

and on preview: what boltman says and asks
posted by amberglow at 10:30 AM on November 18, 2003


boltman: It's called the Defense of Marriage Act.
posted by widdershins at 10:30 AM on November 18, 2003


Does anybody want to cite a link for this one? :

The Christian Coalition has said that gay marriage is a bigger issue to them than abortion.

What the hell? One's just about who's fit to marry, the other one's about the government permitting murder, as I understand it. Now, which one sounds like it would deserve more attention?

And I thought keeping the War On (Some) Drugs going with the biggest dipshit fool's errand of all time....
posted by alumshubby at 10:36 AM on November 18, 2003


yerfatmama: can't call the South End a ghetto *anymore*. Unless it's a ghetto of artists with money.
posted by bingbangbong at 10:36 AM on November 18, 2003


The DoMA specifically states: No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.

It then goes on to define marriage as: only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.

So yes, this is limited to MA and VT only and yes, most of the marriage 'rights' are federally legislated, which means that there's a long way to go still. But every step forward is a stronger foothold.

For the legally minded MeFites: could DoMA be bypassed in future legislation by simply calling gay marriages civil unions? Or will the whole act have to be repealed?
posted by widdershins at 10:37 AM on November 18, 2003


wouldn't DOMA have to be found unconstitutional (which it certainly is)?
posted by amberglow at 10:39 AM on November 18, 2003


I'm actually not at all sure this is a good thing. I mean, I'm personally pro-civil unions (with full rights - marriage in all but name), and ambivalent about gay marriage. Nonetheless, to my straight and somewhat-obsessed-with-getting-rid-of-Dubya self, the first thing that comes to mind is that a majority of Americans (including many who would define themselves as democrats or moderates, even as liberals), are simply not ready for gay marriage in this country. I can definitely see this ruling perceived as a threat by many people; and I can also see it strengthening social conservatives even in areas that generally tend to be moderate/democratic.

Legally/logically, I have nothing against the court's reasoning.
Personally, I offer my congratulations to all those Mass. sodomites out there ;-)
But politically, I can't help but see this as going too far, too fast.
posted by kickingtheground at 10:42 AM on November 18, 2003


Well, i think this has to go to the Supremes

Hears female divas singing Suck! In the name of love!
posted by orange swan at 10:56 AM on November 18, 2003


Hears female divas singing Lick! In the name of love!

Just to be fair... ;)
posted by widdershins at 11:05 AM on November 18, 2003


I'm sure if I were a lesbian I would find something to suck on. But sorry if my lyric seemed biased to one category of homosexual experience - such was not my intent:-)
posted by orange swan at 11:13 AM on November 18, 2003


On the issue of the Supreme Court of the US striking this down: as others have said, there's no basis for them to do so. They could only do this if/when there is a new ammendment to the US constitution. I believe that is unlikely to happen, and in any case will take a very long time.

As to the question of the federal government and other states recognizing these marriages, that will undoubtedly be the basis for many court cases for many years to come. The SCOTUS will probably have a role here. From everything I've heard, the US constitution is clear that states have to recognize other marriage's states, and the Federal DOMA is a per se unconstitutional sop that was thrown to conservatives. But the courts will have to review/decide this.

On the political fallout, I agree that there's potential for short-term damage to Democrats. The Republicans will keep this issue very much alive. On the other hand, public opinion is trending towards support for gay marriage over time especially when you look at opinions in different age groups (e.g. in Massachusetts the only age group that does not support gay marriage is people over 65).

So, not to minimize the work ahead, but I think this is a very good day for everyone who believes in equality and liberty in this country.
posted by alms at 11:14 AM on November 18, 2003


kickingtheground, it must be you I need to talk to in an attempt to understand something. I just don't get it. My buddy Keith and I have been together for nine years, so last July, we got married, laws or no laws. It was only secondarily an act of civil disobedience -- it was primarily an act of love and committment, and a joyous way to celebrate our togetherness with all of our friends and family. A hundred people came from all over, including Keith's Republican relatives from Illinois, and it was a deeply sweet event. We had a honeymoon in Paris and London. What's not to like? It may sound like a naive question, but I'm deadly serious.
posted by digaman at 11:53 AM on November 18, 2003


The Christian Coalition has said that gay marriage is a bigger issue to them than abortion.

What the hell? One's just about who's fit to marry, the other one's about the government permitting murder, as I understand it. Now, which one sounds like it would deserve more attention?


Abortion just kills a few fetuses. Gay marriage will result in the death of the family and the collapse of Western civilization.
/hysterical fundie
posted by stonerose at 11:58 AM on November 18, 2003


I don't want to speak for kickingtheground, but his argument may be that the Massachusetts court just circumvented the proper democratic process and usurped power to itself that should have been reserved for the legislature. That could be wrong, even if the court reached the right result.
posted by gd779 at 12:24 PM on November 18, 2003


a majority of Americans (including many who would define themselves as democrats or moderates, even as liberals), are simply not ready for gay marriage in this country.

This stopped being a concern of mine a long time ago and is in no way a reason to keep it from happening or from making my voice known that I am tired of hearing this tripe.

This makes a lot more sense if you put this into a context everyone can understand. Imagine for a moment that you, however you define yourself, were denied access to 1,049 federal rights because your neighbor didn't want you to have them. It's unconscionable.
posted by archimago at 12:25 PM on November 18, 2003


kickingtheground talks about gay marriage like I imagine the moderate wing of the Democratic Party talked about civil rights in 1963. "...too far, too fast...majority of Americans simply not ready..."
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 12:44 PM on November 18, 2003


If you Mass. citizens don't want to wait, you're welcome to secede and attach yourself to Ontario.

Gay marriages, pot, and health care. We hit the trifecta!
posted by Dipsomaniac at 12:50 PM on November 18, 2003


I'd rather see ENDA happen first, before gay marriage, but we don't have the luxury of picking and choosing which issues come to the fore. I also wonder how this will affect the wishy-washy dem. candidates (especially if the repubs make this part of the culture war, part 2.)
posted by amberglow at 12:50 PM on November 18, 2003


'[Bush is] already on record as opposing gay marriage and (I believe) supporting a constitutional amendment banning it. What remains to be seen is whether that's a political benefit or liability come November 2004. I'd like to think it would be a liability, but it's a close call. This September ABC poll showed most Americans opposed gay marriages, but also wouldn't support a constitutional amendment."

If homosexual marriage is an issue in next year's elections, Bush wins by a landslide. No one on this thread want to admit it, but we all know it to be true. The majority of Americans believe it's unfair for gay partners to be excluded from the same benefits provided to straight partners, but they vehamently oppose the cultural idea of "gay marriage." Forty percent of the Episcopal Church is going to split off over the issue early next year, they feel so strongly about it. And voters are the same way. They'll vote the issue next November.
posted by darren at 12:53 PM on November 18, 2003


South End, Boston's most prominent gay neighborhood.

::: tries heroically not to snicker like he's in junior high :::
posted by rushmc at 12:56 PM on November 18, 2003


Gay marriages, pot, and health care. We hit the trifecta!

Yeah, but can you sell Mein Kampf?
posted by rushmc at 12:57 PM on November 18, 2003


wouldn't DOMA have to be found unconstitutional (which it certainly is)?

Unfortunately, this is a common misconception with regards to the Full Faith and Credit clause of the constitution, and the issue is by no means clear cut. The sentence that immediately follows the famous clause in the Constitution is, in fact:

"And the Congress may by general laws prescribe the manner in which such acts, records, and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof. "

DOMA is just such a law. And the case history, or at least my reading of it, makes getting DOMA sliced off the books look much more like an uphill battle.

As you can probably imagine, this sort of thing has come up several times even before Gay marriage: think interracial marriages and different legal definitions of what constitutes too close of a blood relationship to marry, etc. There are various "tests" based on case law that can be applied when such a conflict arises that determine which state's law prevails. But these, likewise, are not exactly clear cut.

If you don't mind a PDF link, I highly recommend Alabama's look into this issue for some nice background
(as well as citations to specific cases):

http://www.ago.state.al.us/pdfopinions/2000-129.pdf
posted by Swifty at 1:00 PM on November 18, 2003


While hardly, surprising that four out of five Bush supporters oppose gay marriage, half of Democrats also oppose.

And the backlash is getting worse.
posted by darren at 1:01 PM on November 18, 2003


kickingtheground talks about gay marriage like I imagine the moderate wing of the Democratic Party talked about civil rights in 1963. "...too far, too fast...majority of Americans simply not ready..."

The difference between the situation concerning civil rights in 1963 and the situation that may be produced by today's ruling is that civil rights were primarily expanded through the legislative branch, not the judicial branch. To expand on gd779's post, judicial activism is most successful when it is buttressed by previous legislative decisions: without those decisions, the danger exists that a conservative political backlash in the legislative branch can erase the temporary gains made in the judicial branch.

A better comparison between today's decision and a similar one in civil rights law would be with Loving v. Virginia, which overturned state laws banning interracial marriage. But that was in 1967, and though the legal reasoning in it isn't 100% aboveboard (Randall Kennedy writes about this in his book Interracial Intimacies), it had the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to back it up.
posted by Prospero at 1:05 PM on November 18, 2003


The difference between the situation concerning civil rights in 1963 and the situation that may be produced by today's ruling is that civil rights were primarily expanded through the legislative branch, not the judicial branch.

But see, e.g., Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1 (1948)(equal access to housing); Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954)(equal access to education – separate but equal does not work); Brown v. Board of Education, 349 U.S. 294 (1955) (Brown v. Board of Education upheld for all states); Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States, 379 U.S. 241 (1964) (equal access to accommodation); Katzenbach v. McClung, 379 U.S. 294 (1964) (service in a public establishment must not discriminate).
posted by monju_bosatsu at 1:26 PM on November 18, 2003


Gay marriages, pot, and health care. We hit the trifecta!

Yeah, but can you sell Mein Kampf?


Yes you can, at least theoretically. You can't buy it at Chapters or Indigo as Heather Reisman, the woman who runs the amalgamated two chains, de-listed it. But you can get it at any smaller bookstore (although there are fewer and fewer of those, sadly) or if they don't have it they will order it in for you. It's also available in our libraries.

So what's that, a quadriga?</aside

And if anyone wants to have a gay wedding in Toronto, I'll be happy to be your MeFite flowergirl:-)
posted by orange swan at 1:28 PM on November 18, 2003


If you Mass. citizens don't want to wait, you're welcome to secede and attach yourself to Ontario.

We need a land bridge, and it's going to have to go through upstate New York. Let the anschluss begin!
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:36 PM on November 18, 2003


kickingtheground, it must be you I need to talk to in an attempt to understand something. I just don't get it. My buddy Keith and I have been together for nine years, so last July, we got married, laws or no laws. It was only secondarily an act of civil disobedience -- it was primarily an act of love and commitment, and a joyous way to celebrate our togetherness with all of our friends and family. A hundred people came from all over, including Keith's Republican relatives from Illinois, and it was a deeply sweet event. We had a honeymoon in Paris and London. What's not to like? It may sound like a naive question, but I'm deadly serious.
First of all, congratulations! and many happy years.

This is a hard thing to write about without getting caught in all kinds of logical traps and confusing language, but I will try. Marriage is a word. That's all it is, but, alas, it is an extremely powerful word. And, for millennia, it has been primarily a religious word. I am personally an atheist, but I recognize that the vast majority of marriages are religious unions; upon which are then recognized by the state. Now, it is a sad fact, but a fact nonetheless, that the mainstream of most religious traditions does not recognize gay unions. Further, most people's conceptions of marriage are based fundamentally around the joining of a man and a woman, and a tremendous number of people simply would not be comfortable seeing "Mr. X and Mr. Y will be married this Sunday" on the signboard in front of their church.

What all this rambling boils down to, is simply my estimate for what public opinion, the electorate, and the legislature of this country will and will not support. I think we can "sneak" in civil unions, gay adoption, and all the other civil benefits of marriage without massive outrage; this is the path I support, and it is also what my personal moral compass requires of me as a reasonable and just minimum.

Marriage, on the other hand, is to me much less important. I would like to see couples like yours' legally recognized as a marriage, but merely having it recognized as a civil union is enough for me to conclude that the outcome is reasonably just. By pushing for access to the word marriage, you risk provoking massive outrage, and risk losing the civil benefits that are what is really important.

PrinceValium says that there aren't the 67 senators to pass an anti-gay marriage amendment; I can assure you that there are, and, even if there aren't, there are definitely the votes to get 67 such senators. There is a very real risk of provoking a backlash that could undo much of the good we have already achieved, or are in the process of achieving. If the gay community fucks up now, and provokes such a backlash, the damage could take centuries to undo (it is very hard to get rid of a constitutional amendment, once approved). Once a "consensus" is establish, it is extremely hard to undo. And, further, the damage would not just be limited to the cause of gay rights, but also other important progressive causes that I (and many others) cherish, and not just in 2004 and 2008, but for years beyond.

(I beg forgiveness for being, I'm sure, only somewhat grammatical, and less than concise.)
posted by kickingtheground at 1:44 PM on November 18, 2003


I guess I need someone to explain why someone would be opposed to same-sex unions. Is it that they think it will lead our society to ruin, or is it that they think it will somehow diminish the sanctity of a heterosexual marriage, or is it just a fact of stubbornly holding on to tradition, even if it's outdated?
posted by crunchland at 1:49 PM on November 18, 2003


I'm coming into the discussion late, but I for one would like to see Marriage definied as a entirely religious thing, and one that the government has no say in. If two people want to form a family, they can get a civil union licence, and have all the same rights as a married couple currently has. Let the religious people prevent gay people from being 'married', just dont make it a government regulated institution.
posted by Davidicus at 1:52 PM on November 18, 2003


As a religious conservative, I honestly have no problem with doing away with the federal or state governments' involvement in "marriage". As far as I can see, marriage has historically been linked to religion (and many different types, at that), as a sacrament or rite. The government certainly recognized the benefit of licensing and regulating this religious act, for the purposes of taxes and other purely civil ends. I think the time as come for the state to simply recognize civil unions only and stop regulating marriage. Civil unions should be open to any two people who wish to be united for the purposes of receiving the rights bestowed by the government. This means that a wife and husband who are married in a church would eligible, but so would two gay men who choose to live together in a relationship. It might also apply to two friends who live together in a platonic relationship. If the idea is that certain rights are bestowed because of a relationship, then let's open it up and get rid of the religious connotations that have long stifled this debate. Keep marriage in the church or the synagogue or the mosque or the temple and let the government do what it does best (allegedly), and that's regulate. Seems that this would make both the religious conservatives happy because you start messing with their vocabulary and it makes the gay community happy because they are given equal rights.
posted by marcusb at 2:15 PM on November 18, 2003


marcusb - hear, hear (and Davidicus, though I don't much like the wording of the last sentence...).

If calling a gay marriage a 'civil union' makes it more palatable to straight and/or religious people, fine. Done deal. The issue at hand is not semantics but civil rights.

And orange swan, if you find yourself in Connecticut in August you are officially invited to be our MeFite flower girl! Hmm - do you think Bjork would part with this and let you dye it orange?
posted by widdershins at 2:35 PM on November 18, 2003


and Bush chimes in.

I'd buy what marcusb is for, as long as all unions were treated equally...i can already get married to a man in a synagogue--it's the legal stuff that's needed. It's to prevent that equality from happening that so many conservatives are fighting, among other reasons.
posted by amberglow at 2:40 PM on November 18, 2003


KickingTheGround, you make a clear case but not a convincing one, at least to me. While it is true that gay marriage has lost some support in the backlash following the SCOTUS decision last summer, the overall trend of the last couple of decades is overwhelming positive. Opinion has moved dramatically quickly towards support for gay marriage. As people have time to let the idea sink in, it becomes less alien. People realize that there is no victim here, no one is being harmed, and the only basis for opposition is meanness.

I think, ultimately, two thirds of Americans will not take a strong stand to deprive other Americans of civil rights, and that's basically what opposition to gay marriage amounts to.
posted by alms at 2:59 PM on November 18, 2003


While it is true that gay marriage has lost some support...the overall trend of the last couple of decades is overwhelming positive.
That more than anything is an argument to wait until the time is right, and not to force the issue now.
posted by kickingtheground at 3:18 PM on November 18, 2003


What all this rambling boils down to, is simply my estimate for what public opinion, the electorate, and the legislature of this country will and will not support.

Human rights should never be a matter of public opinion.

The 'marriage is a religious term' thing is bullshit. Catholics don't much like Hindu marriages either, do they. Jewish marriages, protestant marriages, either. Do these faiths get to decide what 'marriage' means in legal terms? That you have to be Catholic, not divorced, and so forth? Why do they get to make demands about this issue? Not all religions forbid gay marriages, but they seem to forget that when push comes to shove. It was a United Church in Canada that married gay couples in Toronto that started the furvor here; what do you say to the Unitarian Universalists in the US? Or the aboriginal traditions in the US that allow gay marriages? Sorry, your definition of marriage isn't 'religious' enough for us, 4 out of 5 religions agree, marriage is between a man and a woman.'

This whole thing pisses me off to no end. If you don't like it, don't fucking do it. No one's forcing anyone into a gay marriage. It's not like it's going to affect the rest of those straight families living in the asshole of the US south whose gay sons get beaten to death or shoot themselves in the head. For God's sake.

Honestly, I think it's telling how the Nutty Christians choose their battles. Seven dubious references in their precious book and they're prepared to do all kinds of evil to people who just want to love the concenting person of their choosing. What ever happened to Judge not, lest ye be judged? When Jesus comes back as a gay black man with AIDS, I'm sure they're be sucking it up.
posted by Hildegarde at 3:40 PM on November 18, 2003


but I recognize that the vast majority of marriages are religious unions; upon which are then recognized by the state.

Not really.
posted by rushmc at 3:58 PM on November 18, 2003


Civil unions should be open to any two people who wish to be united for the purposes of receiving the rights bestowed by the government.

Why should the government bestow special rights upon "couples" in the first place? Show me the basis for that in the Constitution.
posted by rushmc at 4:02 PM on November 18, 2003


By pushing for access to the word marriage, you risk provoking massive outrage, and risk losing the civil benefits that are what is really important.

I think you're missing a very important point; as the ruling pointed out, the concept of 'civil unions' for gay people and marriage for straight people (even, I'd like to note, if they're staunch atheists) makes gay folks second class citizens. Catagorization is a critical part of this debate.

I seriously fail to see how you can make "but people won't like it, therefore it's not the right thing to do" into some kind of moral stance. It might be a democratic argument, but it's not a moral one.
posted by Hildegarde at 4:09 PM on November 18, 2003


The difference between the situation concerning civil rights in 1963 and the situation that may be produced by today's ruling is that civil rights were primarily expanded through the legislative branch, not the judicial branch.

But see, e.g., Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1 (1948)(equal access to housing); Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954)(equal access to education – separate but equal does not work); Brown v. Board of Education, 349 U.S. 294 (1955) (Brown v. Board of Education upheld for all states); Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States, 379 U.S. 241 (1964) (equal access to accommodation); Katzenbach v. McClung, 379 U.S. 294 (1964) (service in a public establishment must not discriminate).


Fair enough, but none of those decisions address the issue of interracial marriage. After those rulings, and all the others regarding race that predated the Civil Rights Act, interracial marriage was still a serious taboo--the ignored elephant in the middle of the room, if you will. It took the Civil Rights Act, with its obsessive, ritualistic, repetitive attention to detail and the intense debate that surrounded it, to set the effects of those previous rulings in stone in the mind of the public.

Also, note that all the cases you cite that predate the 1964 act have a well-documented history of being violently contested in the courts as well as on the streets, while, comparatively, not much happened after the Loving ruling: I don't think it was even challenged once.
posted by Prospero at 4:55 PM on November 18, 2003


I just realized that a "Boston marriage" finally really means what it's always meant. : >
posted by amberglow at 4:57 PM on November 18, 2003


If marriage is a religious term, then why do we have to get a "marriage" license for the gov't to recognize it? I had a "civil" ceremony, so am I not married? I'm an athiest, so am I not married? My marriage is the same as a religious person's marriage in the eyes of the gov't. So what difference does it make whether or not I'm married to someone of the same sex? I honestly don't get it.

I agree that if marriage is going to be the religious thing, then fine, take the word. If we want the gov't to recognize a couple, then let's all be civil unions. Then there's no need for second class citizens.
posted by evening at 5:08 PM on November 18, 2003


And if anyone wants to have a gay wedding in Toronto, I'll be happy to be your MeFite flowergirl:-)

Unless you'd prefer a hairy, goateed flower-person, in which case I'm so your man. ;-)
posted by stonerose at 5:15 PM on November 18, 2003


This connects for me to the Judge Moore bustup in Alabama. Marriage, in the sense that Bush et al are using, is a religious matter and as with the 10 commandments has no place in a government building. If however, the government, representing the people, does find general benefits to families, then there is no reason not to vest special rights and responsibilities in such unions.

That said, there is no non-religious reason to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman and the law ought to be draw to allow for different situations. I think a few Mormons, for instance, would suggest that one man, several women is another variant that ought to be allowed.

(Stonerose, why weren't you available here in CA last May?)
posted by billsaysthis at 5:37 PM on November 18, 2003


Marriage, in the sense that Bush et al are using, is a religious matter and as with the 10 commandments has no place in a government building. If however, the government, representing the people, does find general benefits to families, then there is no reason not to vest special rights and responsibilities in such unions.
That goes to the definition of family then--is a single mom and kids family? two moms and kids? two moms, no kids? man and woman, no kids?

It's really too bad that there haven't been court cases demanding government get out of the marriage business (coming at it from a conservative angle).
posted by amberglow at 5:45 PM on November 18, 2003


I think you're missing a very important point; as the ruling pointed out, the concept of 'civil unions' for gay people and marriage for straight people (even, I'd like to note, if they're staunch atheists) makes gay folks second class citizens. Catagorization is a critical part of this debate.

But if holding out for something called marriage instead of the same thing called a civil union gets you *neither*, it's not a very smart thing to insist on. I don't much care whether they call it marriage or a civil union or a gragulated flezzerblop or a FILTHY GAY HOMO-LEFTY PARTNERSHIP TO MAKES BABY JESUS CRY IN HIS BEER, I just want gay couples to have an easier time buying houses together and making medical decisions for each other when required and all that jazz.

Assuming for porpoises of argument that both are legally exactly the same, I'm not sure that a gay couple civilly unionized would have standing to sue to get a marriage. They'd have no actual harm for the court to repair.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:02 PM on November 18, 2003


That said, there is no non-religious reason to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman

Extension of various benefits is one boringly secular reason. If I have one marriage (at a time) to use, I have a disincentive to marry other people to get them into the US, or to give them access to my employer's health insurance, or so on, since then I can't be married to my true schnooky. If I can marry as many people as I want, I've no such disincentive. That would put the state even more intrusively into figuring out which marriages are "valid" and which are bogus for the purpose of collecting some benefit.

Likewise, powers of decisionmaking can cause unpleasant problems when more than 2 spouses are involved. If I'm on a ventilator and one wife says to pull the plug but the other says to keep me on, what should the medics do?

Not that these are insurmountable problems, but they're an existence proof of secular reasons to restrict civil marriage somewhat.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:10 PM on November 18, 2003


Assuming for porpoises of argument that both are legally exactly the same, I'm not sure that a gay couple civilly unionized would have standing to sue to get a marriage. They'd have no actual harm for the court to repair.

Segregation ring any bells?
posted by Hildegarde at 6:15 PM on November 18, 2003


Hildegarde brings up a good point.

If marriage is religious, do those religious people not believe that people outside of their church are married? If your church doesn't accept divorce, do you believe that those in churches that do and have remarried are not really married? If you believe that people to be really married must be married 'under God,' does that mean that atheists married by a Justice of the Peace aren't married?

And if they do, then they don't believe that marriage is really religious. If people to be considered married don't need to be even approved of or acknowledged by God, then why it is important what the Bible says about marriage?

Do people still believe that common-law marriage exists? Because doesn't that exist legally, in some states?
posted by Charmian at 6:24 PM on November 18, 2003


Shit, fan, fan, shit.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 7:06 PM on November 18, 2003


Segregation ring any bells?

Segregation legally barred people from places and activities, and did not merely cause offense because of what it called things. To suggest that calling a marriage a "civil union" if the couple is gay is the same as using physical force to deny a black student entry into an all-white school or using physical force to prevent a black customer from entering your establishment is simply ridiculous. One is offensive but nothing more, the other uses the power of the state to deny people educational opportunities, employment, and commerce.

Occasionally, issues of what things were called did come up during desegregation. Things related to that come up in Sweatt, where UT was going to admit Sweatt to the UT school of law but, to a rough approximation, call it something else. Sweatt pointed out a real harm from this -- he would be denied the excellent reputation of the UT school of law, making his employment prospects worse.

But I'm hard-pressed to think of any real harm, harm that could be remedied, that would arise from calling the same thing by two names. One certainly couldn't claim that one would be denied employment in the future because one had a less reputable civil union instead of an absolutely equivalent marriage. Which isn't to say that cleverer minds than mine couldn't come up with standing, but I suspect they'd have an uphill battle.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:21 PM on November 18, 2003


The 'marriage is a religious term' thing is bullshit. Catholics don't much like Hindu marriages either, do they. Jewish marriages, protestant marriages, either. Do these faiths get to decide what 'marriage' means in legal terms? That you have to be Catholic, not divorced, and so forth? Why do they get to make demands about this issue? Not all religions forbid gay marriages, but they seem to forget that when push comes to shove.

But the simple difference is that a Christian doesn't think it should be illegal for a Hindu to get married and vice versa. I don't even think many conservative Christians care that certain churches allow gays to marry FROM A LEGAL PERSPECTIVE. That's what we're talking about here. People can do what they want within their own religions. The problem I see is when the government starts to get involved in regulating those practices. Churches can each decide whatever requirements they want their practitioners to meet in order to get married. If you don't like what the church requires of you, work to change it or find a different church. The government shouldn't be involved, though.

Why should the government bestow special rights upon "couples" in the first place? Show me the basis for that in the Constitution.

I think it's necessary given the circumstances of the world we live in. Who will inherit my assets or debts? Who will make decisions should I become incapacitated? Who will my health insurance cover? Etc., etc.
posted by marcusb at 7:41 PM on November 18, 2003


Dick Cheney's lying low while this one plays out (too close to home).

Meanwhile - if Mitt Romney keeps true to his promise to push for a national amendment banning gay marraige, can the GOP kiss the Log Cabin Republican vote goodbye?
posted by troutfishing at 7:51 PM on November 18, 2003


You can't buy it at Chapters or Indigo as Heather Reisman, the woman who runs the amalgamated two chains, de-listed it.

Ah yes, it was her response to 9/11 I believe. The laughable irony is that Chapters/Indigo features a 'banned books' section to highlight previously censored material. That is, if it hasn't been censored by Ms. Reisman in her role as Chief Hobbyist with a Wealthy Husband. The bitch hasn't got business nor civil sense.
posted by holycola at 7:53 PM on November 18, 2003


The North Shore and South Shore are rather socially conservative

hmm... depends on how south you are going on the South Shore. More diverse areas like here in Quincy are obviously less conservative.
posted by jerseygirl at 8:08 PM on November 18, 2003


One is offensive but nothing more, the other uses the power of the state to deny people educational opportunities, employment, and commerce.

But that wasn't the idea, was it. It was separate, but equal, right? It's only in retrospect we can see what a stupid idea it was.

If you honestly think they're going to let people united under 'civil unions' do whatever 'married' people can do, I think you're being seriously optimistic. Don't you think they're going to set up rules to prevent people who have a 'civil union' from adopting? Or getting healthcare benefits from their spouse's employer? Separating 'civil union' and 'marriage' is a slap in the face to gay people. What do you imagine would be the point of fighting this fight if the legalities are going to be exactly the same, anyway? Do you believe this 'it's a religious word' charade?

People can do what they want within their own religions. The problem I see is when the government starts to get involved in regulating those practices. Churches can each decide whatever requirements they want their practitioners to meet in order to get married.

Uh...did you miss the part where gay marriage is illegal? Churches certainly cannot marry whomever they please. Churches who marry gay people can't get those marriages registered. And considering the substantial social benefits of marriage, I think it behooves the government to be involved.
posted by Hildegarde at 8:25 PM on November 18, 2003


What do you imagine would be the point of fighting this fight if the legalities are going to be exactly the same, anyway?

All I did was state that it could be difficult to actually press a suit if the legalities were the same, because courts usually require that a plaintiff show actual harm done to them. If I sounded pissy, it's because comparing the suffering blacks endured under Jim Crow to the suffering gays would endure if gay marriages took place but were termed "civil unions" demeans the struggle for civil rights and the people who fought to undo vicious harms being inflicted on millions of people every day.

I did not make any moral evaluation of a state's making a distinction-that-makes-no-difference between marriage and a civil union, except when I called it "offensive." A clever reader could take that as an indication of my attitude toward such a plan.

If it helps, I'll restate it: because of court rules, another stage in the battle -- getting civil unions abolished in favor of simple marriage for everyone -- could be more difficult than one might expect.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:23 PM on November 18, 2003


"Why would you want to get married, anyway?"

Well, here are a few reasons, just for starters:

- Joint Massachusetts income tax filing (G. L. c. 62C, § 6)

- Tenancy by the entirety (a form of ownership that provides certain protections against creditors and allows for the automatic descent of property to the surviving spouse without probate) (G. L. c. 184, § 7)

- Extension of the benefit of the homestead protection (securing up to $300,000 in equity from creditors) to one's spouse and children (G. L. c. 188, § 1)

- Automatic rights to inherit the property of a deceased spouse who does not leave a will (G. L. c. 190, § 1)

- The rights of elective share and of dower (which allow surviving spouses certain property rights where the decedent spouse has not made adequate provision for the survivor in a will) (G. L. c. 191, § 15, and G. L. c. 189)

- Entitlement to wages owed to a deceased employee (G. L. c. 149, § 178A [general] and G. L. c. 149, § 178C [public employees])

- Eligibility to continue certain businesses of a deceased spouse (e.g., G. L. c. 112, § 53 [dentist])

- The right to share the medical policy of one's spouse (e.g., G. L. c. 175, § 108,

- Second [a] [3] [defining an insured's "dependent" to include one's spouse), see Connors v. Boston, 430 Mass. 31, 43 (1999) [domestic partners of city employees not included within the term "dependent" as used in G. L. c. 32B, § 2])

- Thirty-nine week continuation of health coverage for the spouse of a person who is laid off or dies (e.g., G. L. c. 175, § 110G)

- Preferential options under the Commonwealth's pension system (see G. L. c. 32, § 12 [2] ["Joint and Last Survivor Allowance"])

- Preferential benefits in the Commonwealth's medical program, MassHealth (e.g., 130 Code Mass. Regs. § 515.012 [A] prohibiting placing a lien on long-term care patient's former home if spouse still lives there); access to veterans' spousal benefits and preferences (e.g., G. L. c. 115, § 1 [defining "dependents"] and G. L. c. 31, § 26 -
[State employment] and § 28 [municipal employees])

- Financial protections for spouses of certain Commonwealth employees (fire fighters, police officers, prosecutors, among others) killed in the performance of duty (e.g., G. L. c. 32, §§ 100-103)

- The equitable division of marital property on divorce (G. L. c. 208, § 34)

- Temporary and permanent alimony rights (G. L. c. 208, §§ 17 and 34)

- The right to separate support on separation of the parties that does not result in divorce (G. L. c. 209, § 32)

- The right to bring claims for wrongful death and loss of consortium, and for funeral and burial expenses and punitive damages resulting from tort actions (G. L. c. 229, §§ 1 and 2; G. L. c. 228, § 1.

- Presumptions of legitimacy and parentage of children born to a married couple (G. L. c. 209C, § 6, and G. L. c. 46, § 4B)

- Evidentiary rights, such as the prohibition against spouses testifying against one another about their private conversations, applicable in both civil and criminal cases
(G. L. c. 233, § 20)

- Qualification for bereavement or medical leave to care for individuals related by blood or marriage (G. L. c. 149, § 52D)

- Automatic "family member" preference to make medical decisions for an incompetent or disabled spouse who does not have a contrary health care proxy--see Shine v. Vega, 429 Mass. 456, 466 (1999)

- Application of predictable rules of child custody, visitation, support, and removal out-of-State when married parents divorce (e.g., G. L. c. 208, § 19 [temporary custody], § 20 [temporary support], § 28 [custody and support on judgment of divorce], § 30 [removal from Commonwealth], and § 31 [shared custody plan]

- Priority rights to administer the estate of a deceased spouse who dies without a will, and requirement that surviving spouse must consent to the appointment of any
other person as administrator (G. L. c. 38, § 13 [disposition of body], and G. L. c. 113, § 8 [anatomical gifts])

- The right to interment in the lot or tomb owned by one's deceased spouse (G. L. c. 114, §§ 29-33)


Not one of these rights or benefits--which are automatically granted to married spouses--is currently applicable to a partner of the same sex.

That's why.
posted by LinemanBear at 9:41 PM on November 18, 2003


I'm a little late to the party, but I was wondering if anyone could shed some light on these queries...

1.) what is the "sanctity of marriage?" where did the term come from? was it invented for the explicit purpose of holding down the gay man or is it in the bible or something?

2.) what is "anti-family" about gay marriage?
posted by mcsweetie at 9:43 PM on November 18, 2003


LinemanBear - Suppose you got all of those rights legally guaranteed within the framework of a "civil union" or something similar; would you still fight for gay marriage?
posted by kickingtheground at 9:50 PM on November 18, 2003


I think it's necessary given the circumstances of the world we live in. Who will inherit my assets or debts? Who will make decisions should I become incapacitated? Who will my health insurance cover?

How about whomever you designate, as the responsible party? Seems simple enough.
posted by rushmc at 9:57 PM on November 18, 2003


I'd like to know where the 'sanctity of marriage' came from too. Particularly since marriage isn't a sacrament in any protestant denomination.

Is Bush a Catholic and I missed it?
posted by Hildegarde at 10:23 PM on November 18, 2003


The irony is that as a Catholic, many of Bush's views seem more Catholic than any other Christian denomination. And, yes "sanctity of marriage" is a Catholic notion, akin to "sanctity of life." Pretty much, the CC teaches that gay sex is immoral, hence gay marriage would be too sinse one of the purposes of marriage it to have sex and have kids (oh, and to love your spouse, too). Of course, that can be countered with the fact that gay couples can adopt, something I'm all for. I dunno about the morality of gay sex in the first place, but my opinion doesn't matter in that regard sinse I think religious conotation should be removed from the public forum and this should all simply be a civil marriage (gay and straight) with all normal civil rights attributed to the civil marriage.
posted by jmd82 at 10:59 PM on November 18, 2003


Maybe this is duplicating what someone else said. Too many comments here to read them all today (in process of moving). I have to add my comments, I'm gay and "married" under German law (Lebenspartnershaft). I was living in Germany at the time.

Marriage is a sacrament of the church. Dubya says marriage is "sacred". As soon as he said that he made my point for me: The United States government has no business regulating marriage, as it is a CHURCH thing.

The Germans have it right about this. Civil marriage takes place at the city registry. That's the legal hitching. If you want you can go to church and do it too, but that doesn't make it more legitimate in the eyes of the state.

The US Government has business only recognizing contracts between two individuals of whatever gender they happen to be. Anything more is a violation of the church-and-state separation clause, and I frankly am sick to death of these stinking self-righteous alleged "Christians" trying to dictate government policy. It is amazing to find better separation in practice in European countries.
posted by Goofyy at 11:19 PM on November 18, 2003


Suppose you got all of those rights legally guaranteed within the framework of a "civil union" or something similar; would you still fight for gay marriage?

I'm guessing that the "fight" isn't really about gay marriage at all - it's about society accepting the homosexual lifestyle wholesale. And to label as bigots and therefore condemn all those who don't accept that lifestyle. Which freedom of speech, I suppose, gives people the right to do - but call it what it is.

Particularly since marriage isn't a sacrament in any protestant denomination.

Just because something isn't a sacrament (which I believe you are right about, though I don't know all the positions of all the Protestant denominations) doesn't mean that it isn't sacred. For Christians, since you mention Protestant denominations, marriage is found in the Bible and is only between a man and woman. Whether that means anything to you is a different matter.

If you would like to learn what it means in the Reformed tradition this website is a good place to start : http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/topic/marriage.html
posted by alethe at 11:27 PM on November 18, 2003


I'm guessing that the "fight" isn't really about gay marriage at all - it's about society accepting the homosexual lifestyle wholesale. And to label as bigots and therefore condemn all those who don't accept that lifestyle.

I'm guessing you're wrong. I strongly suspect homosexuals don't care at all whether you accept their lifestyle or not, what they (and I, for that matter) care about is that they be entitled to the same rights as anyone else entering into the legal agreement of marriage with another person, and not be discriminated against because of the sex of that other person. You don't have to like it, you don't have to make best friends who are gay, you don't even have to accept that some people are born homosexual and that's just how they are, all that is none of your business - all they want is to have their committed relationships recognized in the same way as we recognize heterosexual committed relationships. Denying them those rights is discrimination. What you don't seem to understand is that you're completely entitled to think they're all sinners or immoral or whatever you actually do think, nobody is denying you that, but you should not be entitled to deny a committed couple prepared to make a legal arrangement the same rights as any other committed couple prepared to make a legal arrangement. It's a boring legal arrangement, no church or religious group has to take part in it, any more than they have to take part in opposite-sex civil marriages. Marriage within the context of a religion has all kinds of additional meaning which the government-recognized legal part takes no notice of, many people have civil ceremonies with no religious context whatsoever, just because a given religion adds all kinds of stuff to the idea of marriage doesn't mean that marriage in the legal sense is affected by it at all. Making alterations to the legal definition of marriage has no effect on the religious aspect.
posted by biscotti at 11:51 PM on November 18, 2003


I strongly suspect homosexuals don't care at all whether you accept their lifestyle or not, ... all that is none of your business

Hrm, maybe I should have been more clear - I didn't really mention myself in my post, but society, and in that respect - as a citizen, as a voter, as a society agreeing what it will and will not allow - yes it does matter what I think about gay marriage. And also in that respect it is my business.

Now, outside of that - the responsibilities of a society, or a voter, etc. - I think you're right, they don't care and it doesn't matter (to them).

I'm not sure I agree, though, that gay marriages or civil unions are "rights". And I'll leave that alone, but to say that I am more inclined to accept the latter than the former.

Making alterations to the legal definition of marriage has no effect on the religious aspect.

I think it has/will have a profound effect on our society and religion, so we disagree there.
(Take for example the recent Episcopalian consecration of a gay bishop, such a thing would not be possible in a Christian church that followed its own teachings. It is but for the influence of a more permissive society that gave the church, and its more secular members, a path to secularize the church. I do not believe such a thing could have happened without "alterations" being made to what is and is not acceptable in society and in the church itself).
posted by alethe at 12:22 AM on November 19, 2003


What if homosexuality declared itself - as a movement - to be a religion? Couldn't it be exempt from all the attacks, and also as free to have legal marriages? At least as a first step?

(I am fully in support of gay marriages.)
posted by interrobang at 2:20 AM on November 19, 2003


You can care all you want, alethe--what you can't do is deny me rights that other law-abiding, tax-paying Americans enjoy. (Let alone the fact that straight people who get a marriage license don't need to be law-abiding or tax-paying, but only of a certain age and not related to each other, depending on the state's laws.) It's discrimination, plain and simple.

Either you believe in equal rights for all of us, or only for the Americans who live a life you approve of--if the latter is the case, I'm sorry for you.
posted by amberglow at 5:22 AM on November 19, 2003


The claim that "X is anti-marriage" or "anti-family" has an extremely long history, and given that history, ought to be used with extreme caution. Until the early twentieth century, for example, Anglo-American Protestants regularly used this claim to argue against toleration for Catholics. Catholics themselves used it against Protestants, Christians in general against the Jews, and everybody against the Mormons.
posted by thomas j wise at 5:28 AM on November 19, 2003


Last night my partner and I discussed this issue. I took the stance that as long as I get the same legal benefits, I couldn't care less what they call it. He took the stance that separate but equal is still deeming a group as second-class and that if it is really equal, then it should be called the same thing. We "argued" about it for a while, and went to bed agreeing to disagree. This morning I saw the governor of Mass. on TV talking about all the steps he was going to take to ensure that gay civil unions were bestowed some rights, but that he was going to ensure that gays were not allowed "marriages." And then it all become clear to me. Separate but equal, please move to the back of the bus sir. While gays have never been subjugated into slavery, the struggle for equal treatment is the same, and I have no problem comparing what we have today to the civil rights demands of African Americans. We are fighting for the same thing, the respect of the law and the freedom to pursue the same privileges as anyone else under this citizenship.

ROU_Xenophobe, I understand your points. Logically, it makes a lot of sense. Baby steps. Take what you can get and then fight for more. But we are not living in the 1950s or the 1850s anymore. Social change doesn't have to proceed at glacial speed just because it always has, especially considering the speed with we which we can communicate today.
posted by archimago at 6:35 AM on November 19, 2003


Two quick points:

1) The people working on this issue in Massachusetts are always careful to use the term "civil marriage". They never just say "marriage" when talking about the rights they want (and have just been granted).
2) Seems like liberal divorce laws have done more to disrupt the institution of marriage than gay civil marriage will. If gay people can get married, it really doesn't have a material impact on most of the population. Whereas liberal divorce laws have made it possible for all sorts of people -- including many politicians of all stripes -- to toss the sanctity of marriage in the toilet.
posted by alms at 6:37 AM on November 19, 2003


Social change doesn't have to proceed at glacial speed just because it always has, especially considering the speed with we which we can communicate today.

Social change has less to do with the speed at which we can communicate and more to do with waiting for a generation or two to die off.
posted by kindall at 6:47 AM on November 19, 2003


I'm not sure I agree, though, that gay marriages or civil unions are "rights". And I'll leave that alone, but to say that I am more inclined to accept the latter than the former.

THERE. ISN'T. ANY. DIFFERENCE. Your objection to one and grudging acceptance of the other is completely irrational.

Nobody is positing a law that will round up all the local Catholic priests and force them to bless gay marriages.

A civil marriage and a civil unions are the same damn thing -- all that a civil marriage is is a bunch of contractual elements, legal rights, and legal responsibilities that are bundled together for convenience.

Do you believe that a homosexual couple should be able to own property jointly? Or should they be forbidden from doing so?

Do you believe that a homosexual person should be able to make medical decisions for his/her incapacitated partner? Or should we forbid that?

If you think that homosexuals should be able to avail themselves of these utterly boring legal benefits, you believe in gay marriage.

Unless, that is, you think that allowing gay civil marriages blesses them, but thinking that Caesar has the power to bless anything is a heretical and unchristian belief anyway.

(Take for example the recent Episcopalian consecration of a gay bishop, such a thing would not be possible in a Christian church that followed its own teachings.

It would be impossible to consecrate a gluttonous bishop in a church that followed its own teachings. It would be impossible to be a congregant and a willing member of a military in a church that followed its own teachings, unless swearing to kill whoever Caesar tells you to kill stopped being sinful. It would be impossible to divorce and remarry in a church that followed its own teachings. In a church that followed its own teachings, marriages of any sort would not be cause for celebration but would be seen as failures of the couple to actually live as God intended.

The essence of being Christian is being unable or unwilling to follow your own teachings -- if people followed its teachings, the church and the sacrifice behind it would have been utterly superfluous.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:05 AM on November 19, 2003


Either you believe in equal rights for all of us, or only for the Americans who live a life you approve of--if the latter is the case, I'm sorry for you.

I guess we just disagree that "marriage" is a right. But of those rights I do know of I do think they should be equal.

Your objection to one and grudging acceptance of the other is completely irrational.

I contain multitudes? Seriously, If I do not believe that "marriage" is a right, and is defined differently and means something different from a "civil marriage", i.e. a contractual agreement, then my objection to one and acceptance of the other is rational. If, however, you believe they are the same thing, then yes, it seems irrational.

But, it is my fault for the misunderstanding, I should not have written "gay marriages" but simply "marriages." I apologize for my mistake.

The essence of being Christian is being unable or unwilling to follow your own teachings.

Your examples were rather silly (in that they are exaggerated and untrue), compared to my real example.

But I'll try to clarify again - If the church has held that homosexual behavior is sinful and then accepts the consecration of a bishop who is either actively homosexual or unrepentent, it is going against it's own teachings. Not that the church will always and perfectly follow those teachings, but to put them aside and disavow them is not being "unable" to follow, it is re-writing Scripture and Church doctrine. Therefore, the impossibility becomes possible only because the Church abandoned Scripture as its authority and held up secular views of the time.
posted by alethe at 1:41 PM on November 19, 2003


But of those rights I do know of I do think they should be equal.
Alethe, there are over 1000 federal laws that mention and concern someone's "spouse" in regards to everything to social security benefits to court cases to taxation law to housing laws to employment benefits to immigration to trade and commerce... Giant pdf here (i've posted it before) Marital status is a factor in every single one of these laws, which confer rights, benefits, privileges, and responsibilities (and sometimes even penalties).
posted by amberglow at 3:53 PM on November 19, 2003


alethe - what is your definition of marriage? how is it different from a civil marriage? I'm not religious so I can't be married to my husband? honestly, I don't understand.
posted by evening at 6:05 AM on November 20, 2003


great op-ed from tomorrow's nyt
posted by amberglow at 6:40 PM on November 22, 2003


Really great presentation of all the sides of the question in this thread. I can definitely see that settling for the civil union option makes sense pragmatically - but screw pragmatism. We shouldn't be asking for anyone to settle for less than equal rights.

And I do have a problem with the whole "leave marriage to the religious people" thing. I'm het, but if I want to get married and not invite God to my wedding (though if there is one, he'll likely drop in regardless), why should I have to settle for a civil union? I'd want the right to call my partnership a marriage.

And damn, widdershins, I am so at your wedding and I am so wearing the Bjork swan tutu dyed orange. Just give me orange rose petals to throw and I'll do you and your beloved proud. You could go with stonerose, of course, but I'm not hairy or goateed and I'm certain to have a better costume.
posted by orange swan at 10:03 AM on December 2, 2003


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