It’s the perennial debate. Should people be allowed to marry a member of their own sex? Should marriage be redefined to include male-male and female-female couplings? No one can seem to agree. In California, the passage of Proposition 8 struck down the California Supreme Court’s decision that banning gay marriage was unconstitutional and on par with discriminating against people based on gender or race. On the other side of things, Connecticut legalized gay marriage, making it only the second state in the union to allow same-sex couples to marry. To be fair, other states allow civil unions with varying degrees of benefits, however, the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 means that states without gay marriage are not obliged to recognize same-sex marriages from states that do allow them. So, it’s obvious the debate has a long way to go.
My opinion on the issue is mixed. I see no reason same-sex couples shouldn’t get the same benefits as heterosexual couples. I also don’t have anything against calling it marriage. Language is fluid. Definitions change as society changes. However, I am not willing to push to change that definition prematurely. People naturally resist sudden change. Subtle changes over a long period of time, however, usually go unnoticed. For that reason, I advocate civil unions with the same rights and benefits as marriage but under a different name.
It’s common sense to me. As a pragmatist, I understand the importance of compromise. The main objection to same-sex marriage is the name. You know the old refrain: marriage is defined as a union between a man and a woman. While it’s true that definition isn’t set in stone, it’s going to take a while before it can change. I say it’s better to fight for the rights and leave the name for later instead of fighting for the whole thing now and getting nothing. Slow and steady results produce results. They may not happen quickly, but they happen.
The usual response here is that separate but equal is not equal. I dispute that. If two things are the same in every way except in name, they are still equal. Once they become unequal, they are no longer separate but equal. It’s a rather obvious truism but I’ve come across a lot of people who don’t get it. I agree that the ideal thing is to have marriage for everyone. But that’s not going to happen easily. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against gay marriage. But I think that fighting tooth and nail for it against opponents who have shown time and again that they will not budge is detrimental. More antagonism is not what the gay marriage movement needs.
I may seem like a defeatist. An appeaser, even. It’s true: I’m no idealist. But I like to think that I know how important it is to make sure the other side is content. Proposition 8 is proof enough that forcing something on an unwilling population will result in backlash. Gradual acclimation to the idea (especially assurance that gay marriage will not affect heterosexual marriage in any way) over time will most likely result in more states allowing gay marriage without resorting to judicial intervention.
Change minds, don’t force hands.
(Of course, there is the religious side of things, but that’s not the focus of this post. Don’t worry, I haven’t overlooked the religious right. I just know it’s futile to debate them.)