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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Is Opposition to Same-Sex Marriage Really Just About Protecting the "Sanctity" of Marriage?

One of the main excuses that is put up for the reason that same-sex marriage shouldn't be legalized is that gay couples can attain those same rights that other couples have through domestic partnership laws. This crops up quite often in the debates surrounding the prop 8 controversy in California, where there is already a domestic partnership law which allows for almost, but not quite, the same benefits of a marriage. However, it is also used more broadly when people arguing against same-sex marriage try to avoid looking like bigots by claiming that it isn't a matter of wanting to deprive gay couples of the same rights other couples have, but actually a simple desire to "protect" traditional marriage. It's not the rights involved they contend, just the terminology. Setting aside the fact that the Constitution prohibits religion based laws and has no provision for preserving discriminatory policies, regardless of how deep they might be rooted in tradition, let's see if this argument holds up to the scrutiny of reality.

Fortunately, Nevada has provided us a great opportunity to test if same-sex marriage opponents really are so ready to allow gay couples the same rights under a different, less sacred, name. Unfortunately, it's rather obvious that the argument falls far short of being true. Currently, the Nevada legislature is debating two bills sponsored by David Parks, an openly gay assemblyman from Clark County (which includes Las Vegas). One bill proposes the creation of a domestic partnership law and, in essence, gives them the same rights as married couples. The other bill would outlaw discrimination against individuals based on sexual orientation. Both bills involve simply the affording of gay people the same rights as anyone else and neither of them require the tainting of any sacred names. Yet anti-gay groups are up in arms against both bills and the reason is because they oppose the idea that same-sex couples might actually attain the same rights as straight couples. And there's no need for speculation about that motive.

How can we be so sure about their reasons? To put it simply, we know this is the case because they told us it was. The Las Vegas Review Journal had this report from yesterday's session:

Strong opposition to the bill was voiced by Richard Ziser, a Nevada Concerned Citizen lobbyist, who contended the bill was a move to circumvent the Protection of Marriage constitutional amendment.

Under the amendment, marriage in Nevada can be only between a man and woman.

Ziser said the bill gives domestic partners all the rights of married couples and yet says they are not married.

"Simply because you call it something else does not make it so," he said.

Yet, whenever the issue comes up in states in which domestic partnerships are recognized but same-sex marriages aren't, it's always contended that gay couples should be happy with domestic partnerships, because it's just a matter of having a different name applied. The sad truth is that homophobic bigots will use any argument that they can to prevent same-sex people from attaining the same rights as everybody else, even arguments they don't genuinely believe in. This is all the more reason that separate and unequal shouldn't be accepted as a policy and full rights have to be the goal.
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David Claiborne said...

Hey great blog, I think you're absolutely on track here.

I just wrote a bit about this today as a matter of fact, not long before I discovered your site -

I'll be checking back in and reading more, I hope to see you come by and check out my blog too.

Kelly W. Patterson said...

Thanks for the comment David. I did read your blog and I would suggest to anybody who reads these comments to head over there as well. It's well worth the time spent.

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