Thursday, December 3, 2009

Gay Marriage or Civil Union: Would Less be More?

New York lawmakers on Wednesday rejected a bill that would have made their state the sixth to allow gay marriage, stunning advocates who suffered a similar decision by Maine voters just last month.

The New York measure needed 32 votes to pass and failed by a wider-than-expected margin, falling eight votes short in a 24-38 decision by the state Senate. The Assembly had earlier approved the bill, and Gov. David Paterson, perhaps the bill's strongest advocate, had pledged to sign it.
The outcomes in New York and Maine are disappointing because they would have represented legislative legalization of gay marriage, rather than judicial imposition.   The former is more likely to reflect the general will of the people and therefore be more stable.
 
I wonder whether advocates of gay marriage would have greater success if they focussed on civil unions, rather than marriage per se.  While the actual difference is small to non-existent, the symbolic difference seems to be large.  Widespread adoption of civil union need not be the ultimate goal, but it represents a significant, positive step.
 
The ultimate goal, of course, should not be marriage for opposite and same-sex couples; it should be civil unions for both, with marriages a private matter left to religions.   The strategy of adopting civil unions for same-sex couples would not necessarily achieve this goal, but the current strategy does not appear especially successful either.

19 comments:

Justin Kraus said...

Unfortunately what you call the "symbolism" seems to be the core issue for both sides. Gays want to get married (and not "unionized") precisely because they recognize the social significance of the term.
While opponents, precisely because they also recognize marriage's social significance, are unwilling to confer it onto gay couples.

I agree with your solution of getting government entirely out of the marriage business, but like most libertarian solutions, its unfortunately entirely unrealistic. Furthermore you seem to be somewhat naive/errant in promoting civil unions to gays. For while you see civil unions as the ideal end point as far the government should be concerned, most gays would only see such unions as a stepping stone towards attaining "full" martial "rights," which you don't support for any couples gay or straight.

You shouldn't guide people down a road that you know they are going to take to a place that you don't want them to go.

Anonymous said...

Justin,

Libertarian positions emanate from our principles. Whether you believe they are realistic or not is your opinion (which you are entitled to), but we strive to show factual data consistent with our principles in order to change opinions (not cater to them).

Several politicians actively support civil unions (Christy-Todd Whitman and Arnold Schwarzenegger are two examples) as well as the general population. So it makes perfect sense to move in this direction as an interim step.

As far as the end goal stated in Professor Miron's blog, why wouldn't we want a separation of church and state in this area? What business are our personal relationships for the government to get involved in?

Justin Kraus said...

Anonymous,

I suggest you reread my comment.
1. (As I said) I agree with the libertarian perspective on this issue. Government should not be involved either in religion or personal relationships.
2. With that said do you realistically see the government getting out of the heterosexual marriage business? I don't, nor would I bet does Professor Miron.
3. Precisely because libertarian principles are against state-sanctioned marriage, I questioned Professor Miron's seeming counsel to the gay community that they should adopt a civil-union strategy as a stepping stone towards achieving full martial rights. Here I am simply calling for some clarification of his position.

Anonymous said...

Justin,

In response:

1. I was referring to your opinion that it is not realistic, and not arguing with your position as stated. I do however, have a real problem with Libertarians (or people that share liberatarian views) who don't have the kahones to advocate for them without equivocation. We have to consistently find ways to move the conversation to the "ultimate goal". It sounds like your a little weak-in-the-knees in your comment.

2. I do think that many in the government and other influentials are coming around to the fact that civil unions are much a more feasible alternative. And this moves the conversation in the right direction.

3. For some reason I didn't quite hear your "calling for a clarification" while reading your comment. In fact I didn't see a single question posed to Professor Miron. Maybe you should re-read your comment.

jimbino said...

I have to support Anonymous here. All kinds of crazy ideas, like religious freedom, speech freedom, slave freedom, women's suffrage and gay sex rights have at some point been "unrealistic." Justin Kraus may be right that the gay marriage right is unrealistic in our time, but we need to start somewhere.

"I have been to the mountain. I have seen the promised land...."

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