April 21, 2005

Separate, but only Almost Equal

from - smijer

Republican Governor Joni Rell of Connecticut has signed a bill into law, providing civil unions for gay couples.

Gov. Rell contends that she supports "equal rights" for all people living in her state, and that she does not support same-sex marriage:

"...reiterated her position that she has always opposed discrimination in any form, and that she believes in equal rights for all couples, no matter the gender," Rell spokesman Dennis Schain said. "The governor believes this bill addressed those issues while protecting traditional marriage
between a man and a woman."

Schain added that the governor does not support same-sex marriage and had asked the House to include the amendment emphasizing this position.

Of course, opposition to same-sex marriage and support for equal rights and non-discrimination are mutually exclusive positions. I'm sure that she is aware of this, and is just doing the politician thing. I do applaud the fact that she has improved the legal footing of gay unions in her state. But I'm not a politician and it's ok for me to tell the truth... and I want to remind anyone who is reading and who needs the reminder what the differences are between a civil union and civil marriage.

First, is the semantic difference. Normally, semantics are unimportant, but in a case where they are specifically chosen for the sole reason of creating a distinction between the status of two groups, they express the intent to discriminate. The fact that the governor and legislature feels it is important to make clear that gay couples "aren't really married" shows us that they see gay couples as deserving of less rights - not equal rights. To make an analogy to the Civil Rights movement, it is as though the bus-driver walked through the bus after boarding and put a label on each minority-occupied seat that said "back row". In other words, pretty stupid.

Second is the substantive difference. Article 4, Section 1 of the United States constitution:

"Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof."

In practice, this means that marriages done in one state are recognized by other states, just as if they had been performed there. On the other hand, since civil unions do not exist in other states, a civil union done in CT is not automatically recognized in other states. Mrs. smijer & I can move away from Tennessee and expect to have our marriage legally recognized wherever we go. Gay couples in Connecticut cannot do the same.

Still, I can look at a glass and say it's half-full, and I can still congratulate the people of Connecticut for acting somewhat more like grown-ups than the people of my own state.

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Posted by smijer at April 21, 2005 01:21 PM
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