Friday, January 02, 2004

New Year's Resolutions and Civil Union thoughts

Well we're starting a new year and if you look at my blog you'll see that I do about a post a month. I'm pretty bad. Tamara does a pretty good job of documenting her life, and by association most of mine. But that's no excuse for me not posting every excruciating detail of my wretched existence. So my new year's resolutions for 2004 will start with:
  1. Post more often in my blog.
  2. Exercise more (than once a month). I'd like to get to the 3 times a week schedule with some sit-ups with Tamara
  3. Not screw up STAR OKC by action (or inaction)
  4. Get more done - I'm not sure if this is a time management issue or prioritization or just getting up off of my ass and doing stuff rather than watching TV.
  5. Do more with music - This relates to the last resolution but I felt like mentioning it separately.
That's it. I'd like to have someone good to vote for this November and I'd like to get GWB out of office. I'd like to think that even 4 more years of GW's BS won't permanently damage the country. I mean we survived 8 years of Reagan and 4 from Bush Sr. The US has seen darker days and I'd rather the days didn't get any darker.

Civil Union Thoughts

I've been thinking about the arguments for and against Civil Unions (also called Civil Marriage). I prefer to think of them as Civil Unions because of the hot-button issues surrounding the word Marriage and if the argument gets hung up on semantics then that can detract and derail from the meat of the intent; the privileges and responsibilities granted to heterosexual civil unions through the current practice of licensing marriages.

The first thing I think that needs to be done is to separate the concept of marriage as defined by a specific belief system from the registering of a union with a government to gain access to the legal aspects of a joined family (both rights and responsibilities). As far as I can tell no one wants to force a religion to accept a concept of marriage that is against it's teachings. But we have already established the concept of the civil marriage (union) performed by a justice-of-the-peace or other legal and not religious office, like ship's captain. So it is already possible for a heterosexual couple to get married without the consent or knowledge of any religious body. It is this linkage that anti-civil union groups use for many of the arguments against civil unions.

From the basis of a purely civil union, the argument that it is against god and nature holds no force. Arguments must be made in a purely civil way derived from the framework of civil discourse. The US Constitution is the basic civil document upon which laws, and the rules which implement them, and case law are founded. Currently there is the Defense of Marriage Act which prohibits federal recognition of anything but a monogamous heterosexual civil union. If this law were to be found unconstitutional then that could open the door to a civil union not restricted to heterosexual relationships much in the same way that laws prohibiting same-sex acts in private between consenting adults were found to be unconstitutional. It is for this reason that there is a focus on a constitutional amendment protecting the heterosexual definition of marriage. If you change the constitution then you can't say it's unconstitutional.

One argument I've heard is that same-sex civil unions are very much like mixed-race unions were considered 50 years ago. I've also heard (from supporters of the "traditional" monogamous heterosexual union) that this is not a good comparison. They've said race or ethnicity isn't something you can change about a person. This brings in the fallacious argument that it should matter if homosexual behavior is genetic or chosen. If your position is that it isn't fair to discriminate against genetic situations, like race or ethnicity, but it is for chosen activities what is to stop you from discriminating against other "chosen" activities. Is it OK to say that smokers can't marry because they can always quit smoking? Or to say that overweight people can't marry because they could always lose weight if they wanted to? The arbitrary nature of this argument exposes it as unsuitable for basing a legal system.

Another argument I've seen concerns the historic nature of civil marriage as a special contract between a man and a woman. If a civil union is placed in the arena of contract law then it seems to me that the hold becomes even more tenuous. Are supporters of traditional marriage saying that two men or two women or even a group of people of undetermined gender can't enter into contracts with each other. The idea is absurd. And in many ways it is in the area of contract law that civil union finds its greatest support. If you view a marriage license as a contract between two consenting adults and the government then it shouldn't matter the gender of the adults. As long as they fulfill the responsibilities of the contract they should enjoy the rights and privileges. For me, as long as the parties are adults capable of assigning consent then gender should not play a part in the civil union contract. Corporations are already recognized as genderless entities able to enter into extensive contracts. Should we give more rights to nonliving business entities than to living citizens? I don't think so.

So those are my thoughts on civil unions. I don't expect to change anyone's mind. And the constitutional amendment process is so lengthy that I don't expect that to pass either. But lots of earnest people will get a lot of mileage and money by pushing the issue.

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