Gay Marriage, Not Civil Unions
February 4, 2004 8:55 AM   Subscribe

Mass. High Court Rules for Gay Marriage. In a follow-up to this thread, the Mass. High Court rules that only full, equal marriage rights for gay couples - rather than civil unions - would be constitutional. This opinion was requested by the state senate leading up to next week's consideration of an amendment that would legally define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
posted by Stynxno (50 comments total)
 
Oh - in a related story, I have a riddle. What's round on both ends, and run by a bunch of bigots in the middle? ;-)
posted by stonerose at 9:02 AM on February 4, 2004


Hooray! This news makes me so happy.
posted by agregoli at 9:10 AM on February 4, 2004


Soon this country will be divided into states that allow gay marriage, and those that don't. Same with abortion. People will start choosing where they live based on their religious beliefs and sexual orientation. (Much more than they do now, anyway.)

It reminds me of a story my parents tell about being on a Mississippi River cruise. One of the guest speakers was Ken Burns. After his talk, someone asked him if he thought there was any issue today that could split the country like slavery did in the 19th century. Without batting an eye, he said, "Abortion."
posted by gottabefunky at 9:13 AM on February 4, 2004


It'll be interesting to see how Kerry, a Mass. senator, deals with this, since he's come out against gay marriage in the past. At least in name.
posted by tittergrrl at 9:14 AM on February 4, 2004


From the court's decision in November:

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

That just says it all for me. It will be interesting to see what happens next week.
posted by widdershins at 9:18 AM on February 4, 2004


I'm glad to see this, but the cynic in me wonders whether this will make it more likely that Mass. will approve a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 9:19 AM on February 4, 2004


"People will start choosing where they live based on their religious beliefs and sexual orientation."

It's already happening. This is why I got the hell out of the south.
posted by 2sheets at 9:31 AM on February 4, 2004


Soon this country will be divided into states that allow gay marriage, and those that don't. Same with abortion.

For convenience's sake, shall we call them...red and blue states?
posted by rushmc at 9:40 AM on February 4, 2004


Embarrassing, because it's coming so late for something that should be so fundamental, yet perhaps it represents a great step forward... one can hope. Is it true that Kerry has "come out against gay marriage in the past"? Why? Is this really something that the average (heterosexual) individual is so worried about in his/her everyday life, like the cost of groceries and what the state of social security will be when they are old and gray?
posted by taz at 9:43 AM on February 4, 2004


Of course, if it could at all be considered constitutional they wouldn't be seeking an amendment - the same was done for slavery.
posted by xammerboy at 10:02 AM on February 4, 2004


Also - I totally agree with Taz. It sickens me that Bush would spend 1.5 billion on encouraging kids to marry when so many of us are in debt and jobless.
posted by xammerboy at 10:03 AM on February 4, 2004


Kerry's position on gay marriage is that he supports the creation of civil unions rather than opening the word marriage to include gays and lesbians. He also believes that gay and lesbian couples should have the same family-access rights that heterosexual couples do, and he voted against DOMA in 1996.

Kerry's GLBT platform.
posted by headspace at 10:06 AM on February 4, 2004


Kerry's position on gay marriage is that he supports the creation of civil unions rather than opening the word marriage to include gays and lesbians

I cannot grasp that strategy. French efforts aside, language defies legislation. If a civil union is created with all the legal implications of marriage, it is a marriage. Any difference between the two will be rendered a historical curiosity in a matter of months--especially in the absence of a decent verb form. "I got civil unioned last year;" "what's on your civil union registry?" It will be called a marriage and it will be thought of as a marriage--even (especially?) by those vehemently opposed to it.
posted by shinnin at 10:22 AM on February 4, 2004


"People will start choosing where they live based on their religious beliefs and sexual orientation."

And some will start choosing to not teach evolution in schools, and eventually the overall stupidity of the schoolchildren will sterilize an entire generation. The weakened heartland will then fall to the might of the properly-trained, well-fed communist homosexual armies of Boston.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:24 AM on February 4, 2004


Onward atheist soldiers!
posted by gottabefunky at 10:26 AM on February 4, 2004


On preview: shinnin makes the most important point about how stupid the entire marriage/civil union argument is. It's all going to come down to what people say- something that can't be legislated. So essentially, what everyone's bickering about is what the wording will be on paper that no one will look at again after signing.

Make marriage between a man and a woman, fine, whatever. As soon as civil unions are nationwide (which I don't think will be long from now) gays will just say they're married. So what if they have to check "civil partner" instead of "spouse" on their 1040, they can call themselves whatever the hell they want. What are you going to do, arrest them?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:28 AM on February 4, 2004


Unless I'm unaware of some marriage benefits that will be denied to civil unions. Anyone?

Actually, where can you look up the legal substance of marriage in the various states and how widely does it vary?
posted by shinnin at 10:34 AM on February 4, 2004


Is there a legal difference between a marriage and civil union? I haven't been able to figure one out, but I haven't done much research. It always seemed to me that to have the government recognize any sort of "marriage" seems wrong. Marriage is a construct that is linked to religion and social beliefs, whereas legally it's pretty much a tax and property status. That is, unless the state holds some sort of otherworldly authority to put a stamp of approval on religious beliefs.
posted by mikeh at 10:37 AM on February 4, 2004


Unless I'm unaware of some marriage benefits that will be denied to civil unions. Anyone?

Sort of. Here in Vermont, the Civil Union Law was meant to extend the exact same rights to same sex couples that are enjoyed by opposite sex partners under the existing marriage law. So civil unions are equal to marriage as far as this state's government is concerned. However, as soon as you hop across the border, those rights don't mean much of anything. This creates a couple of problems. First, people will not be able to take their civil union back to their home state and have it recognized there. Second, the union is not recognized by the Federal Government, so it doesn't mean much if a same sex couple wished to share Federal Benefits.

Of course, this is where the DOMA really starts to hurt. It didn't mean all that much when it was passed in 1996, when no states had a civil union or gay marriage law.

Actually, where can you look up the legal substance of marriage in the various states and how widely does it vary?

Any state's legislative code (the body of law that the state legislatures work on every session.) As a law student, I have pretty easy access to them through the Westlaw/LexisNexis service, but I think most of the state's codes are online. Typically the sections related to the definition of marriage are found in a special chapter for family law.
posted by ipsedixit at 10:46 AM on February 4, 2004


the properly-trained, well-fed communist homosexual armies of Boston

i for one welcome our...oh, never mind. ;-) this is another great day for the Mass. SJC, but it's going to take down the post-Superbowl euphoria around the state right quick. the good news is, marriage licenses now *MUST* be made available to same-sex couples starting in May. the soonest an amendment could be put to the voters is 2006 -- which means no matter how much the Catholic church (which, despite its recent...shall we say...P.R. problems, has been vocally trumpeting itself as the guardian of marital sanctity) and other right-wing groups lobby from now until then, it's still going to happen, at least for a while. and then it will be that much harder for the state to *take away* that benefit later on -- it would create a tsunami of lawsuits. i think it's just so odd how even generally intelligent, compassionate people (like John "Divorcee" Kerry) can be so hung up on the "Gays are OK, but just don't call it a 'marriage'" argument -- looks like they can't hide behind that much longer.
posted by serafinapekkala at 10:58 AM on February 4, 2004




this is good.

i don't understand why this is even an issue. I don't see why who someone else loves and marries is anyone's business but the parties involved.

I can understand why bigots are against gay marriage.... well thats a lie, i don't. Bitch and whine about how their promiscuous gay sex is spreading TEH AIDS! Then when they want a monogamous government sanctioned relationship - they freak out. "YOU'LL RUIN MY MARRIAGE WITH YOUR BUTTSECX!"

But lets assume being against gay marriage makes sense... why is it their business? Im against scat and water sports... doesn't make it my business what other people do.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 11:00 AM on February 4, 2004


the union is not recognized by the Federal Government, so it doesn't mean much if a same sex couple wished to share Federal Benefits....

As an FYI, by federal benefits, think about stuff like social security, international travel, and your legal right not to have to testify against a spouse in federal court. GLAD has a list here outlining the differences.
posted by jessamyn at 11:18 AM on February 4, 2004


What are you going to do, arrest them?

Shit, we stopped doing that a year ago!
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 11:34 AM on February 4, 2004


Findlaw has the decision itself posted if anyone is interested.

The reason that the court insisted upon marriage and not civil unions is because it felt that, along with legal rights, there are "intangible benefits of marriage" that cannot be fully enjoyed if you're going to call it something other than what you call a heterosexual union. Basically, the idea is that the formal distinctions of the law in this area have cultural sigificance even if they don't have any legal effect.

I think the court's probably right about this. Liberal politicians wouldn't spend so much time explaining how they're for civil unions but against gay marriage if the distinction didn't hold some weight with the general public. If the public thinks there's a distinction, than in a very real sense, there is a distinction. I'm not so sure that people are just going to start calling it "marriage" after a few months (as one poster suggested) because both the politicians and the gay rights community are going to have a strong interest in constantly pointing out to the public how it is an important distinction, even if it is devoid of legal significance. It may be nothing more than a device for ambivalent politicians to take a "middle ground" on an divisive social issue, but that doesn't mean that it's not a very real distinction.
posted by boltman at 11:51 AM on February 4, 2004


"Civil Unions" was originally a term coined to emphasize that proponents of gay unions were not trying to legislate what happens in any, individual church. Theoretically, it was a term to make clear that this was a civil rights issue, and not a separation of church and state issue. Unfortunately, it is.

The reason people play so hard with the word marriage is that traditionally marriage is a religious rite- if you legislate one sacrament, you're opening the church up to become controlled by secular, federal interests.

IMHO, the best thing a candidate could do is come out on a platform stating firmly that marriage is a religious institution- it belongs only to churches, and the government has no business legislating what happens in your church- then move to abolish federal administration of *marriages*, and institute civil unions for all couples, gay or straight. Give religion back to the churches- people can still get married in their church; if a couple wants to be recognized for conjoined tax benefits, etc., they have to register a civil union. Then the Religious Right can froth about being abandoned, but they can't claim that the government is encroaching on their right to religious freedom.

(Idealistic and unrealistic, I know- I can imagine the shrieking from all quarters that "The government just banned marriage!" Still, it's a legally-sound argument, I think.)
posted by headspace at 12:47 PM on February 4, 2004


I have a riddle. What's round on both ends, and run by a bunch of bigots in the middle? --A circle jerk?
posted by lathrop at 12:59 PM on February 4, 2004


then move to abolish federal administration of *marriages*

How do you think that would go over with the "preserve the sanctity of marriage" crowd. I know what you're saying, and logically it would actually strengthen the spiritual/religious aspect of marriage that those folks care about. But people don't think logically. Wouldn't a candidate who wanted to "abolish federal administration of marriage" be seen as someone who wanted to destroy it?
posted by jpoulos at 1:46 PM on February 4, 2004


What's round on both ends, and run by a bunch of bigots in the middle?

Ohio, kids, Ohio.
posted by Dreama at 4:05 PM on February 4, 2004


Dreama wins the prize: a no-expenses-paid gay houseboat wedding on Cleveland, Ohio's byoo-tiful, blazing Cuyahoga River!

Please note that partial points would have been awarded for "Karl Rove's cranium."
posted by stonerose at 4:40 PM on February 4, 2004


jpoulos- that's totally what would happen, which is why I put in that postscript there that logically, it should work, but emotionally, it's idealistic and unrealistic. :)
posted by headspace at 4:54 PM on February 4, 2004


[Kerry's position on gay marriage is that he supports the creation of civil unions rather than opening the word marriage to include gays and lesbians]

I cannot grasp that strategy.

Just think "separate but equal". That's the gist.

(Though it's not really equal at all, as jessamyn points out.)
posted by boredomjockey at 5:22 PM on February 4, 2004


A house divided against itself cannot stand.
posted by WolfDaddy at 5:34 PM on February 4, 2004


I'd also like to point out that I think the major Democrats' positions on gay marriage (civil unions, not marriage) are all totally politically determined. I think that's shortsighted, but they all have a tacit agreement that the first major candidate to come out in favor of gay marriage would just be kind of pitied by the others, since Middle America will flee from him like Janet Jackson's breast flap from her nipple disc.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 6:21 PM on February 4, 2004


Statement by the President: "Today's ruling of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is deeply troubling. Marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman. If activist judges insist on re-defining marriage by court order, the only alternative will be the constitutional process. We must do what is legally necessary to defend the sanctity of marriage."
posted by homunculus at 8:26 PM on February 4, 2004


homunculus: do you think gwb has ever heard the phrase "tyranny of the majority" and, if so, does he comprehend it?
posted by billsaysthis at 9:00 PM on February 4, 2004


I disagree that we will become some long term stable country in which some states have legal gay marriages and some don't. I'm in texas, definitely a republican state, and within people under 25 it's very hard to find someone that is opposed to gay marriage, it's a non-issue, and one that will die along with a generation.
posted by rhyax at 10:56 PM on February 4, 2004


Well, erm, for what it's worth, I'm 36 and I have no issue with it. My only real issue with marriages or civil unions of any sort has always been those where the participants jump in and treat it all as a lark, instead of what should be, in my option, a serious, lasting, and responsible loving relationship.

I waited to marry until I was in my 30's, when I was old enough to settle down, and young enough to enjoy it.

And I've been happier than anything the last four years, and plan to stay so until I'm worm food...
posted by Samizdata at 12:11 AM on February 5, 2004


that's a very good point, rhyax, and certainly valid.

opinions about gay marriage are incredibly stratified related to age.

http://mrpi.utsa.edu/content/homosex1.html

according to this survey (in 1999, btw, since there has been significant cultural change since then...)
for the 18-30 age range, those "strongly approved" was at 65.8%, whereas at 66+ it was at 21%.
posted by 11235813 at 2:56 AM on February 5, 2004


Congratulations, Soyjoy.
posted by mcgraw at 11:55 AM on February 5, 2004


I'm trying to be as open-minded about this one, but gay marriage remains a queer idea (no pun intended). I wouldn't chose a presidential candidate based on the issue, but I truly hope Massachusetts, and all states get a constitutional amendment ruling out same-sex marriages. There, I said it!
posted by ParisParamus at 12:02 PM on February 5, 2004


I truly hope Massachusetts, and all states get a constitutional amendment ruling out same-sex marriages.

Why?
posted by biscotti at 1:57 PM on February 5, 2004


It's just offensive. Marriage is, primarily, about having children and perpetuating the human race. Whatever gay "marriage" would be, it would not be about that. Viscerally it's just stupid. If you're gay, why must you insist on delluding yourself into being the equal of a heterosexual couple? Whatever else your doing, you're not perpetuating the human species. IT'S JUST A STUPID CONCEPT.
posted by ParisParamus at 2:08 PM on February 5, 2004


Marriage is, primarily, about having children and perpetuating the human race.

That's false. Fucking is, primarily, about having children and perpetuating the human race. Marriage, if one takes a family-centric view, is about raising children, not producing them.

And I've got news for you: gay people raise children, too. Might it be good to have those children raised in a family marked by a public and binding proclamation of loyalty and love? Or do only kids raised by straights deserve that?
posted by NortonDC at 2:41 PM on February 5, 2004


NortonDC. OK, you win.
posted by ParisParamus at 2:51 PM on February 5, 2004


Wow...that was easy, assuming you're serious PP, good for you. I was going to ask if childless heterosexual couples are also not "equal" to heterosexual couples with children, but I guess I don't have to bother.

The stupid concept is that it's the government's job (or anyone else's for that matter) to decide what marriage is in the first place - if you extend special privileges to two people who choose to make a legally-binding contract with each other, then you must extend those privileges to any two people who make that same contract (the religious aspect is unrelated to the legal aspect). The stupid concept is that it's okay to deny people the same rights as other people based on gender (we don't deny childless heterosexual married couples the same rights as those with children, so it's clearly NOT based on perpetuating the human race, which, by the way, is in no danger of dying out).
posted by biscotti at 3:14 PM on February 5, 2004


Whatever else you're doing, you're not perpetuating the human species.

Right back atcha, buttercup!
posted by bradlands at 3:22 PM on February 5, 2004


Fucking is, primarily, about having children and perpetuating the human race.

That's not really true either. Having children and perpetuating the human race is about having children and perpetuating the human race.
posted by jpoulos at 3:42 PM on February 5, 2004


Yeah, whoa, did you really mean to say that conception was the primary reason for having sex, NortonDC, and does your SO know about this? (Maybe will not pack!) But, I'm with you on your main point about all kids deserving committed parents, etc.
posted by onlyconnect at 11:36 PM on February 5, 2004


prime (adjective)
from m-w:
Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French, feminine of prin first, from Latin primus; akin to Latin prior
1 : first in time : ORIGINAL

So, yeah, it really is true, but not exclusively.
posted by NortonDC at 4:24 AM on February 6, 2004


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