Weekend Question: How About Civil Unions for Everybody?
In her thought-provoking post about marriage (below), Rachel Lu contends that gays should accept civil unions rather than marriage. Like Rachel, I'm a supporter of traditional marriage, but I'm increasingly of the opinion that the best policy for the state to follow is not to make marriage universal, but to make civil unions universal. In other words, get the state out of the marriage business.
The real sticking point in the marriage debate is not economic, it's cultural. In California, for example, the civil partnership law confers the same benefits as marriage (even Judge Vaughn Walker conceded the point), but the plaintiffs in the Prop 8 case insist that the state must refer to their relationship as "marriage." But marriage is an ancient term in our civilization; it's a religious sacrament, and the state has no business, you might say, monkeying around with centuries of tradition.
Agreed -- so why give the State the power to define "marriage" in the first place? Granted, the state must (I think) have something like marriage, for purposes of tax filing, survivor's benefits, intestate succession, and the like. Civil unions do that. So why not get rid of state marriage licenses, and create a civil union regime that would be open to same-sex couples? If you want to get married, go to a church. Sort of like the formalities around birth: the state issues a birth certificate, but you go to church or temple to arrange baptism or bris.
I know there are counter arguments; that's why I'm posting this here. Hit me with your best shot -- as the man said. What do you think?