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February 26, 2004


I swear I'm going to hop off this gay marriage meme one of these days.

In the meantime, I want to issue a challenge, and the challenge is to show me where the denial of rights and privileges are affecting gay lives. I expect some real answers but I also am begging the question of the literal currency of marriage.

In ten years of marriage, I've never had to show my marriage license. A driver's license with the same last name, or a SSN is all I've had to show. The actual license is somewhere in my garage. In fact, my marriage license has the wrong date on it because a a bureaucratic foulup in the City of New York. That has never caused me any pain.

So I'm trying to determine where it is on the ground that documentable marriage makes or breaks and agreement, right or privilege, because all this time it has very easy for me and the spousal unit. Where is it legal and where is it social, this discrimination against gays? Again, I raise the question in the form of the most poignant analogy that I can.

If gays are being denied public accomodations, and I use that phrase purposefully, why must they be married to exercise recourse under existing equal protection laws? My answer is that they are not being denied rights, but privileges. I believe this society is quite willing to grant equal protection of rights and privileges if activists for the gay cause will simply leave the M word out of it. And since they are privileges, society is reasonable in asking.

Is it too much to ask? Apparently so, for all the moral posturing. This is the case where asking permission is easier than asking for forgiveness.

I also want to note in passing how much ignorant intolerance of the religious beliefs of 'phobes is flying through the air right about now.

Posted by mbowen at February 26, 2004 10:30 AM

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Tracked on February 27, 2004 09:13 AM

BFL Roundup * .5 from Slings And Arrows
I haven't seen a BFL round up in a while, so I thought I would have a crack at one. Here goes: Aaron's Rantblog is still all about Blogopoly. Ith weighs in on checks and balances. The Angry Clam has... [Read More]

Tracked on February 27, 2004 09:15 AM


You're not quite there yet... You'd definately need a notorized copy of your marriage certificate for this major legal event:


Posted by: Thom at February 26, 2004 11:54 AM

I think the primary focus lies in asset inheritance (e.g. pensions, social security survivor benefits), medical benefits and legal power of attorney.

Shared properties, which are currently reserved for married couples and their dependent children, can be extremely valuable. While this is important to the gay argument, providing these assets is what is typically covered by promises of civil unions. My sense is that the proponents of gay unions want this and more: a recognition of full social and moral equivalence between homosexual and heterosexual relationships. Such social validation, of course, falls outside of anything the government can actually grant. But the idea is that, having this in place, it will be much easier to demand that various other institutions (schools, churches, the military) recognize and validate homosexual relations as normal as well. In time and under such pressure, the thinking goes, all social and moral distinctions between hetero- and homosexuality will be consigned to the past.

That's the theory at least...

Posted by: Mark Brittingham at February 26, 2004 12:16 PM

There are a whole range of legal rights and protections wrapped up in marriage. Though some only come up under extraordinary circumstances, they should be as available to gays as to straights.

One is the spousal immunity privilege, which, if you watch enough Law & Order or The Practice, you know means that, in general, a husband cannot be compelled to testify against his wife and vice versa. The other is known as the privilege for marital communications, which protects confidential correspondence between spouses. These are just two of hundreds of rights granted by marriagerights that gay couples dont have.

Posted by: Jonathan Korman at February 26, 2004 02:47 PM

I like this juxtoposition of right vs privilege that you've described here. I'm for civil unions for same sex couples. I'm also, after giving it much thought, okay with marriage as deteremined in state courts. I'm not okay with opening up the constitution on the issue for either side.

But the rights v privilege thing is important for me because I have been looking for a way to frame my exasperation with all of the comparisons of this battle for gay couples and the civil rights battles of black americans.

Over the last two weeks I have read MORE comparisons between the quest for marriage between gay couplels and the quest by black amerians to be recognized legally as HUMAN than I care to.

And anyway I try to phrase the argument in my mind,it looks like i'm being unsympathetic to this legal/social battle on the part of gay americans. I don't want to seem unsympathetic. At the same timem, I'm getting PISSED off at the analogies to Rosa Parks and her seat on the bus.

COME ON PEOPLE! The fight for the privilege of flying to san francisco for a wedding and to obtain the legal benefits that result from that union DOES NOT compare with the fight to be recognized as a citizen, as a human being, with equal protection and legal rights to FREEDOM for an entire race of people ripped from their homes and brought to this country illegally to toil in servitude.

Am I insane? or What?

Posted by: jeneane at February 27, 2004 07:35 AM

Along with all of the things already mentioned, I'd offer this: I lived in "the south" from 1986 to 1995. There are still people there who argue that "separate but equal" doesn't discriminate.

If it's true that there is nothing that marriage grants you that domestic partnership doesn't, then why aren't those against gay marriage petitioning to get the government out of marriage all together? Make it simply a religious institution, and let the benefits and obligations currently covered by marriage become a matter of civil contract.

Hear all of that stammering and hemming and hawing? That's the sound of prejudice.

Posted by: Dan Lyke at February 27, 2004 08:10 AM

Great points here. As Mark Brittingham said, the legal advantages of marriage could be handled with civil unions, while the real agenda behind gay marriage is social acceptance of homosexuality. In essence, heterosexual married people have civil unions anyway - defining those legal advantages (inheritance, power of attorney, privilege against incrimination, taxes). Beyond that stuff, "marriage" is a religious institution - the state treats Jewish and Christian and Islamic and atheist marriages exactly the same.

Social conservatives want the state to stay in the marriage business for the opposite of the reason gays are pushing for gay marriage - they want to maintain (and now, make constitutionally explicit) the favored legal status of heterosexuals over homosexuals precisely because of the presumed moral/social superiority of heterosexuality.

I don't think either side really cares about "marriage." It's just a convenient battleground for fighting the larger war, namely, whether gays should be treated the same as straights in this country, or not.

I agree some of the comparisons to the 20th century civil rights struggle are strained. I alluded to that here.

It was part of an ongoing debate with my then co-blogger Mike - I visited these same issues here:

Mike dismisses my caution that legalistic "rights" arguments for gay marriage are exaggerated for the purpose of obscuring the true, more radical agenda - that is - bringing about societal acceptance of homosexual relationships as being on equal footing with heterosexual relationships. He says "gay America today is a lot closer to the days of Frederick Douglass than to those of Al Sharpton," and thus unwittingly proves my point.

Frederick Douglass was born into slavery. The rights argument for gay marriage is based essentially on the inconvenience of drawing up a will. Any attempt to equate these as examples of oppression is a non-starter.

Posted by: BTD Steve at February 27, 2004 10:12 AM

Hey! It turns out that the Feds have compiled a list of legal consequences, and there are so many that they cannot track them all down.

Posted by: Jonathan Korman at February 27, 2004 10:55 AM

It's pretty much spelled out right here:


Posted by: Deb at February 29, 2004 03:54 PM

Seems to me that the big problem with calling a gay union marriage is only religious. Perhaps and alternative solution is to get rid of the legal term "marriage" and make all unions, "civil unions," leaving marriage to the respective churches. Many people become legally married, but do not go through a religious wedding.

I don't see why we shouldn't accept homosexuals as equals in the eyes of the law. There are many other christian morals do not determine legal precedent.


Posted by: Chris Arnold at March 28, 2004 12:35 AM

'Only Religious' in that the state cannot or will not hold a higher standard. If there were an independent secular standard of marriage (which is the most charitable view of the FMA) then that might suffice.

I don't see why we can't disaggregate the rights from the privileges of marriage and be very specific about what it is that gays don't have that they need from the state.

Posted by: Cobb at March 28, 2004 12:54 PM