March 12, 2004
Separate But Equal But Despised
The Massachusetts legislature has gone ahead with approval of a "separate but equal" amendment to its constitution, making same-sex marriage forbidden, but same-sex civil unions with "entirely the same benefits, protections, rights and responsibilities that are afforded to couples married under Massachusetts law" available.
For once, I agree with Andrew Sullivan:
"There's no possible reason to give gay couples something that walks, talks and squawks like a marriage but is called something else - except to maintain a purely semantic distinction, whose purpose is to reaffirm the inferiority of homosexual couples."
But the matter does have the benefit of driving home the point that semantics matter to the assorted stakeholders in this issue. They matter to the Massachusetts representative who describes the amendment as a lost vote as she wipes tears from her eyes and vows to fight on for real equality. They matter as much to the people who probably view the amendment as a last-ditch fireline defense against the potential encroachment of the state into their churches. Semantics are what mark this not as a victory for democratic values and pluralism, but a slap in the face that had to be begged and wheedled for.
Now, at least, there's a well-delineated line that should be easily discerned by even the least observant: On one side of it lies the almost-but-not-quite grudging acquiescence to equal protection tainted by bigotry and a pathological desire to exclude. On the other side is an opportunity to provide real equal protection by including everyone in a single, state-recognized institution and leaving the act of exclusion to benighted communities that will never do anything other than snarl at the proposition of a same-sex pair celebrating and affirming their commitment anyhow. If they want to corrupt their own sacraments with their bigotry, that's a matter best left to them, their fellow parishioners, and their god.
Link first found at Wonkette.