The Collective
Thursday, April 14, 2024
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via WaPo: Connecticut House Votes To Allow Gay Unions

Connecticut’s House of Representatives passed legislation Wednesday that would make the state the second to establish civil unions for same-sex couples, and the first to do so without being directed by a court.

The state Senate overwhelmingly approved a civil-unions bill last week, and lawmakers said they expect to endorse the House version as early as next week. Gov. M. Jodi Rell (R) said Wednesday that she will sign it.

The House also passed an amendment — favored by Rell and designed to make the bill more palatable to more conservative members — that defines marriage as a union of one man and one woman.

This strikes me as the best way to go, in terms of a compromise position. On the one hand, pro-gay marriage advocates don’t like it, because it reserves the term “marriage” for heterosexual couples, and anti-gay marriage advocates don’t like it because it allows a form of legal homosexual unions. However, gays would get legal protection and marriage would legally be between men and women only. (And, of course, as in any good compromise both conceded something, and yet leaves both side dissatisfied).

This is the logical route, however, because the anti-gay marriage camp has to understand that they are eventually going to lose via the courts, and this route at least preserves the language. The pro-gay marriage camp has to understand that while the courts may eventually come down on their side, it will be, to borrow a phrase, a long, hard slog. Further, there are many states where the fight will be especially pernicious given the willingness of citizens to ban gay marriage via constitutional amendment.

I have long thought that the fact of the matter is that an evolutionary approach was the best route for those in favor of gay marriage: even if every state in the land, and even the US Constitution banned gay marriage, but allowed for civil union, the likelihood is that the language (and attitudes) would evolve to view civil unions almost identically to civil marriage–because, what words are people going to use, as a pracitical matter? Gays who get a civil union will, no doubt, refer to the event a “marriage,” and they will refer to thei partners as “spouses”. Does anyone doubt that this will not be the case? As such, the language will have a greater transformative effect over time than will the exact nature of the law.

Does this mean that there will be universal approval? No–but it doesn’t matter what it is called, or what the law says, universal and perfect acceptance isn’t coming. I would liken it, however, to general views on heterosexual couples who live together, but never wed. Several decades back, such an arrangement was scandalous. Now, while hardly treated identically to marriage (although in some quarters of our society, it is), such arrangements are hardly anathema. Keep in mind: homosexual unions, and even heterosexual cohabitation, will never be considered “marriage” in, say, the deep South, but may well evolve as such in the West and the NE.

One of the fundamental flaws in the logic that somehow calling gay unions “marriage” will, in fact, make gay couplings identical to traditional marriage is that a gay union isn’t the same as a heterosexual union, by definition. Setting aside the procreation argument, there is little denying that biologically we exist in a manner that makes heterosexual pairings by far the norm. Further, this is also culturally and historically true. Any assumption that the two types of pairings can be considered identical in every way is simply incorrect.

Nevertheless, the fact of the matter is that there is no legal argument for denying persons who wish to form a legal bound from so doing, and as such, I can see no argument contra the idea of civil unions. Further, I would note, that since there are churches who will marry homosexuals today (as is their right), there is no reason why a gay couple couldn’t engage in that ceremony as well as a civil union in those states which allow it. And, I suspect, that the number of states allowing civil unions will increase significantly in the next ten years.

Those who oppose homosexuality on moral grounds are going to have to acknowledge a couple of things. First, homosexuals are human beings, with rights, and moreover are citizens with rights and they aren’t going away. Second, as such, there are going to be homosexuals who wish to join together in permanent union, and there really is no civil argument that can (or should) be made to ban those unions. We live, after all, in a pluralistic, liberal democracy. Even if one doesn’t like this situation, the fact of the matter is that the protection of someone else’s unpopular rights sets the stage for the protection of my own unpopular rights at some point in the future (and, conversely, the quashing of someone else’s unpopular rights sets the stage the quashing of my own at some point in the future).

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Filed under: US Politics | |


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    1. Connecticut, Oregon having a gay old time
      Steven Taylor notes that both houses of Connecticut’s legislature have approved civil unions bills in the past week, while James Joyner links a Reuters piece on the introduction of a same-sex civil unions bill with bipartisan support in the Oregon…

      Trackback by Signifying Nothing — Thursday, April 14, 2024 @ 3:35 pm

    2. If the state Legislature, as elected by the people, votes this in, well, why not? In fact, if they voted to actually use the term “Marriage,” well, why not? I’m not in favor if gay marriage, or really that much for civil unions, but that’s democracy.

      The only real problem will be when the Ninth Circus Circuit rules that this overrides the Arizona Legislature’s decision not to legalize such. Since I didn’t get to vote in Connecticut, their laws should not be forced to apply to Me here.

      Comment by Gary and the Samoyeds — Thursday, April 14, 2024 @ 3:50 pm

    3. I see this all coming to the SCOTUS, because civil unions in Connecticut are not going to follow couples when they move to Texas for their job. And one of those lawsuits is going to end up deciding this once and for all.

      Otherwise, I should note that someone is going to revoke your membership in the social conservative club over this piece. :-)

      Comment by bryan — Thursday, April 14, 2024 @ 8:54 pm

    4. Civil Unions Pass Connecticut State Legislature
      Well, it’s about time:…

      Trackback by News from Around the World — Friday, April 15, 2024 @ 1:44 am

    5. Indeed–I have enough libertarian-esqueness in my thinking to screw up at least some of my social conservativeness. At any rate, it helps maintain my desired goal of being “complex”. ;)

      You raise a legit point about crossing state boundaries. I do wonder if civil unions couldn’t be transferable under Full Faith and Credit as well, but perhaps not.

      Regardless, you are probably correct: this will not be setteld until it gets to the Supremes.

      Comment by Steven Taylor — Friday, April 15, 2024 @ 6:49 am

    6. [...] the heart of marriage in Minnesota — we may not have a chance to answer the second. I am on record as preferring the notion of civil unions to same-sex marriage, although I have acknowledged tha [...]

      Pingback by PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » The Polygamy Monster (Run for the Hills!) — Friday, March 17, 2024 @ 6:42 am

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