There is a lot of talk about the idea of calling all civil marriages “civil unions.” People wanting to couple officially, straight or gay, could get a civil union contract with the state. They would then be free to pursue a “marriage” at their chosen religious institution. The idea is that the state can satisfy the issue of equality while religions are free to only marry who they so choose. This is being called “getting the state out of the marriage business.”

There was a discussion on this point held on Patt Morrison’s show on KPCC yesterday because a group of UCSB students are collecting signatures to put an initiative on the ballot that would remove the word “marriage” from the California Constitution. Obviously, this would cause problems with Californian’s trying to reconcile our Constitution with the US Constitution. While this sounds like somewhat of a reasoned compromise, there are many important issues that arise.

The marriage/civil union discussion seems to incorrectly presume two points. First, same sex marriage is a newly constructed unit that is different from opposite sex marriage. The truth is, gay and lesbian people have been marrying each other for millennia. Indeed, these marriages occurred and were legally recognized in antiquity. Many same sex couples get married in churches within their faith traditions. These marriages are not illegal; they are *ignored* by the state.

The wording of Prop 8 requires that the state continue to ignore these marriages. So if Prop 8 is upheld, even if the state then “got out of the marriage business” by only offering civil union contracts, the religious marriages of straight couples could be recognized as such while the religious marriages of gay and lesbian couples would continue to be ignored.

The second incorrect presumption is that if the state recognizes the marriages of same sex couples, religious people or institutions will in some way be harmed. Same sex couples and families are harmed by the state (and the federal government) ignoring their relationships. The state recognizing these relationships provides remedy to this harm. The religious institutions that feel strongly against gay people and/or gay marriage are not affected by either outcome. They will continue to enjoy the same religious freedom they have now. Rightly, the religions that honor marriage commitments between gay and lesbian people will begin to enjoy religious freedom that is *equal* to the majority religion.

The idea that the rule of law should be dictated by bare majorities represents nothing more than the quickest road to fascism. It is not truthful to the founding and ruling principles of this country–it is not the American way. The American way is that government shall equally rule all people. Just because some people don’t like other people doesn’t make the unpopular group less of a citizen.

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