Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Vermont and Marriage Equality

In 2000, Vermont became the first state to allow civil unions. Today, the Vermont Senate voted to legalize same sex marriage. The vote passed with a 26-4 margin. The vote now moves on to the House, where it is also expected to pass. Governor Douglas has stated that he does not support the bill, but it is unclear whether or not he'll veto it. Even if he does veto, it's likely that the Senate will override.

I've heard several arguments against allowing same sex marriage, but I have yet to hear anything persuasive. I am open to a legitimate argument, however I think that this is a case where there is no real case for the opposition.

The most common argument, by far, is on religious grounds. 'It was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve'. Sorry to break it to you guys, but the US is not a theocracy, no matter how much you may want it to be. I do not want to get into a theological argument (I do not want to dump on anyone's beliefs and also I would probably lose that argument anyway, me not being particularly religious). Just keep in mind that our laws are not supposed to be based on any religion.

The religious argument is often followed with 'but they have civil unions, why do they need marriage'. Because a civil union is not the same thing as marriage. Because separate really isn't equal. A case in point, I once tried to help a civil unioned couple do their taxes. It was a nightmare. They had to file their federal taxes as single, since the federal government does not recognize civil unions. Since the state tax return is based on the federal tax return, they then had to fill out a mock federal return as if they were married and use that to complete their state return. That is just one example of the many, many ways that denying the name 'marriage' puts civil unions on unequal ground.

Another common argument against same sex marriage is that it somehow makes a mockery of heterosexual marriage. I have never been told how. I don't think anyone knows. We are all just supposed to agree that a gay couple getting married somehow makes the loving marriage between a man and women somehow not as legitimate. I need to take a poll of people who were married prior to 2000, the year civil unions were passed in Vermont, followed by subsequent same sex marriage acts in a handful of other states. So, people who have been married 9 years or more, do you feel that your marriage took a hit when gays were allowed to marry? Is your marriage less special to you?

And then we come to the other argument against gay marriage: what about the children? The argument goes that men marrying men and women marrying women is just not natural. They're not going to produce children, so why are they bothering to get married? And then the argument devolves into something along the lines of 'you might as well marry a goat'. It's a silly argument. There are plenty of married heterosexual couples who do not have children for one reason or the other. My sister is child free by choice, and yet her marriage is still legitimate. My 58 year old widowed mother is now engaged to a man in his seventies. If they ever do get married, I don't think that they will be having any children. As for marrying animals, that's just silly. Animals, farm or otherwise, cannot consent to legal documents. Homosexual adults, on the other hand, can consent and do have legal rights.

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