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Nice try, USA today

Timothy Kincaid

January 5th, 2012

Civil Unions are very very valuable to couples who are able to protect and provide for their family through such institutions. However, as a distinction from marriage they are both silly and pointless.

To gay couples, it is offensive to offer a lower status. To anti-gay activists, any social recognition of same sex couples is anathema. And everyone else just gets confused.

Take, for example, USA Today’s coverage of Hawaii’s Civil Unions law which just came into effect on January 1, 2012. No doubt Nancy Trejos meant well, and the coverage caught the spirit of the story but, well, you’ll see:

The new year could bring Hawaii hotels a wave of same-sex marriage civil union ceremonies.

At least, that’s what they’re hoping.

Many hotels in Maui especially, where there were 5,900 non-residential marriages in 2010, are specifically targeting same-sex couples now that a law went into effect Jan. 1 legalizing civil unions.

The Grand Wailea, for instance, is offering free iPads to the first 10 couples who sign up for civil union packages, according to The Maui News.

A recent University of California-Los Angeles, study found that Iowa’s legalization of gay marriage in 2009 resulted in as much as $12 million additional tourism dollars, The Maui News pointed out.

Maui Hotel & Lodging Association Executive Director Carol Reimann told Hotel Check-in that Maui has the most number of visitor marriages of any of the Hawaiian islands, and expects to see more same-sex marriages civil unions.

“We want to service all segments of the community, and we welcome everyone,” she told Hotel Check-in.

That said, she pointed out that same-sex marriages civil unions in Hawaii won’t be recognized in home states that don’t have the same civil union law. “But I think a lot of people appreciate the fact that Hawaii recognizes it,” she said.

That hasn’t stopped hotels in New York from also catering to same-sex couples since civil unions marriage became legal there in July.

At The Muse Hotel, for instance, concierge Marc Camacho got ordained as a minister shortly after the civil union marriage law went into place. It took him about a week of studies, which the company supported by giving him time during the work day.

“It feels good knowing this is one of the things we can offer” guests, he said.

On Dec. 23, he performed his first civil union marriage ceremony when two California residents checked into The Muse. They had had a ceremony planned in California before Proposition 8 was overturned passed, no longer making same-sex unions legal reverting California back from recognition of marriage to domestic partnerships. They went ahead with the ceremony but wanted to make it legal in New York.

Camacho arranged all the details, re-creating their July California ceremony, down to the same German chocolate cake and cocktails.

Camacho said the hotel is getting more calls and e-mails from other same-sex couples looking to have their weddings or receptions there.

“This is getting us more excited to go down that route,” he said.

Like I said, clearly she meant well. But why don’t we be done with the confusing nomenclature and just celebrate the marriage for everyone, already?

Comments

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BearToast Joe
January 5th, 2012 | LINK

And aren’t we more than just economics?

Richard W. Potts
January 5th, 2012 | LINK

A lot of the problem is the conception that marriage is a right. It’s not really a right for anybody except in a technical and superficial sense. It’s like my having the “right” to go the the veterans administration and get free hearing aids costing thousands of dollars. Do I have the right do that? Well, yes, technically I do, and in fact I’ve availed myself of that right and I’m wearing them right now. But what really have I done? I’ve signed up for a series of benefits and preferences, because I’m part of a class of persons whom society thinks should receive benefits based on the idea that society benefits in a certain way by granting them. Well, it’s the same with married people. Society benefits by granting privileges and benefits in situations where thee night be a new member of sociaty growing up with the benefit of having both a mother and a father growing up. This is necessary and and there is no alternative arrangement that deserves the economic or social support of society.

Jessica Naomi
January 6th, 2012 | LINK

Richard maybe you never heard of Loving V Virginia http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=388&invol=1
“The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men. Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival.”

Charles
January 6th, 2012 | LINK

Richard:

http://front.moveon.org/two-lesbians-raised-a-baby-and-this-is-what-they-got/

And, btw, what about the thousands of children being raised by same-sex couples whose parents are penalized by paying thousands of dollars extra in taxes, insurance, and lost benefits? Those children, such as Zach Wahls, are surely going to benefit society some day – perhaps even changing unjust policies such as the one you advocate.

Franck
January 6th, 2012 | LINK

I would argue that the right to marriage is even inscribed into the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but experience has taught me that the average American has more respect for toilet paper than for that document.

Ryan
January 6th, 2012 | LINK

That’s truly bizarre. It looks like she said the opposite/incorrect thing every single time. How is that possible? And yet, I can’t conceive of a motive for doing it deliberately. Still, very weird.

james
January 6th, 2012 | LINK

My objection to the approach of the article is the idea that same-gender relationship recognition (whether civ un or marriage) is primarily about creating a business opportunity.

It is not — it is about recognizing under law the legitimacy of those relationships.

If the argument helps persuade a legislator or voter to support same-gender relationship recognition, I’ll make it. But, “we can make more money if we let the gays marry,” demeans marriage.

Jay Jonson
January 6th, 2012 | LINK

Ryan, the motive for that misrepresentation is that she was was simply transcribing what the Hawaii Tourist Commission told her to say. Someone should whisper in the Commission’s ear that most gay couples would choose New England or New York or Iowa and have a real marriage than a civil union that will not be recognized in their own state.

Jim Hlavac
January 6th, 2012 | LINK

The big problem with “civil union” is the phrase itself — it does not render into English well. What are we to say? “We were civil unioned yesterday”? “We’re civil unioned”? It’s not a word, this “unioned” and it makes no sense. Civil Engineers, sure. Workers unions, why not. But “civil union” just doesn’t make the cut.

Though if heteros have such a problem with “marriage” and gays saying “we’re married” etc, (and they do,) I long ago, some 30 years ago even, proposed “twainage” for gay folks. It works well with the language — for “twain” is the ancient Saxon word for “two” — and fortuitously it’s the male gender of “two” (back when Anglo-Saxon had genders; “two” is the female gender for, well, “two.”) And so we could say, “we were twained” and “this is my twain” and “we’ll be twained tomorrow” It destroys the polygamy nonsense, for twain is two. It renders the concept into English quite well. The word “twain” still floats around the language for “two” and I’d guess only Mark Twain fans might complain. Ironically, since our opponents want us to be celibate or change, well, then, they could use the “never the twain shall meet” to keep up their UnGodly assault upon our being.

As for other states not recognizing the legal contract – that slips into the territory of Bills of Attainder — which every state constitution specifically bans. A BoA is a law which applies to only a select few people and provides a penalty without judicial proceedings — and having one’s contract of “civil unioning” simply abrogated is a penalty. Though, actually, the legal contracts are in a sense nullified (see Civil War for the “nullification of laws and contracts” argument,) or even more — simply evaporating into the ether is simply not going to cut it legally.

Meanwhile, as a few more states come on board with legal recognition of gay couples, it becomes harder and harder for the courts to not conclude that gays are unfairly singled out for special treatment, negatively so, even. I can’t imagine this going on for much longer. As for Santorum and pals idea that they’ll pass a Constitutional Amendment nullifying or evaporating gay marriages, well, that’s so egregiously unconstitutional since it would open up every single citizen to Bills of Attainder — and the founders of the nation were so dead set against that English legal concept that they enshrined it into the Constitution. I do think that our opponents are skirting with a constitutional crisis with their continuing efforts to simply do away with our varied rights, among them free speech, commerce, contract, and other sundry matters. It’s breathtaking to behold the sheer fear and panic they hold about gay folks, as if the heteros will all of a sudden run down to the local gay bar and get themselves a boyfriend if a nice word was said about us. Their heterosexuality seems to be built on sand, while our gayness is unto the rock of ages.

Eric in Oakland
January 6th, 2012 | LINK

You missed one of the mistakes in the article. It reads “They had had a ceremony planned in California before Proposition 8 was overturned.” Prop 8 was passed, not “overturned.”

Richard Rush
January 6th, 2012 | LINK

Jim Hlavac wrote:

The big problem with “civil union” is the phrase itself — it does not render into English well. What are we to say? “We were civil unioned yesterday”? “We’re civil unioned”? It’s not a word, this “unioned” and it makes no sense. Civil Engineers, sure. Workers unions, why not. But “civil union” just doesn’t make the cut.

There is a partial workaround to this problem: Gay couples can simply say they are married, and no one can stop them. They don’t even have to be ‘civil unioned,’ ‘domestically partnered,’ or joined in a ceremony to say they are married. There used to be (and maybe still is?) a concept of “common law marriages” whereby couples that lived together for long periods were simply recognized as married.

My husband and I live in a state that has no recognition for gay couples at all, and we have not had a ceremony. But, damn it, we’ve been together for over thirty years, and no one is going to stop us from declaring ourselves married and that we are each other’s husbands. This may be one area of life where a fact can simply be willed into existence.

No couple needs the government’s or anyone’s permission to declare themselves married. The question is not whether those couples are married, but whether they receive recognition from others, including government, that is equal to the recognition bestowed on penis/vagina marriages.

I wish this idea would take off and go viral. Then we’d have fun sitting back watching the anti-gay heads explode as gay couples all over the nation publicly declare themselves married and then demand equal recognition.

So much of the debate has been about denying us use of the word marriage. But all we have to do is seize the word, and there is nothing the government or anyone can do to prevent it. So let’s just seize it!

Timothy Kincaid
January 6th, 2012 | LINK

Thank you, Eric. Fixed.

AlexH
January 6th, 2012 | LINK

Timothy, I take it the strike-throughs are yours?

I think most people are confused by terms civil unions, domestic parnterships, and same-sex marriage and believe that they can be used interchangeably, which is true in terminology in most cases, but not in legal status.

I’m not sure if it applies in NY or IA, but in CA, if I’m not mistaken, Civil Unions are the same thing as same-sex marriages at least in regards to the legal technicalities (rights and responsibilities and such).

To me, the bigger issue is DOMA which really does create a “separate but equal” issue when it comes to comparing traditional marriages to same-sex ones, because no matter what it’s called be it DP, CU, or SSM, a married same-sex
couple cannot file a joint Fed Tax return nor can the surviving spouse collect Social Security death benefits, not to mention custodial rights if there’s a child involved, or even apply for citizenship, all of which goes to married straight couples either as a rule or a courtesy.

Until we get rid of DOMA, same-sex couples will always be seated at the back of the bus to their straight counterparts.

BTW, Happy New Year, BTB and its readers! :-D

Timothy Kincaid
January 6th, 2012 | LINK

AlexH,

Yes, the strike-throughs are mine.

You are mistaken about California. We don’t have Civil Unions, we have Domestic Partnerships. And while they are completely equal in state-granted rights and obligations, they are different in the way in which they are conducted and recorded.

You are completely correct on social security, citizenship, and federal taxes. But child custody is a state decision and not necessarily impacted by DOMA (so far, failure to recognize other-state unions has not resulted in failure to recognize custody rulings).

All of which proves our point that this mess of alternate half-way provisions is pointless and confusing – even to those of us which follow it. Yes, DOMA has to go, but so too must the wacky state-wide discriminatory bans and partial-bans.

I have great hopes for change in 2012.

AlexH
January 6th, 2012 | LINK

Thanks, Timothy. See, even I get confused as to which is which. LOL.

Steve
January 6th, 2012 | LINK

A difference is that CUs require a ceremony, just as a marriage would. DPs are usually just registries. You sign some papers and that’s it. People often still have a ceremony, but technically it’s optional.

Otherwise state-wide DPs seem to be confined to the West Coast, while the rest of the country used CUs

Eric in Oakland
January 7th, 2012 | LINK

@ Alex and Steve:

DOMA is not the only significant problem. Marriage carries the same rights and obligations throughout the nation and carries over to other countries generally. Civil Unions and Domestic Partnerships are constructs of individual states and mean different things depending on which state sanctions it. The same names are used indescriminately for marriage equivalents and for largely useless registries and anything in between.

Regan DuCasse
January 7th, 2012 | LINK

Actually CU’s and DP’s are separate and UNEQUAL.
VERY unequal, in fact. The entire nature of their existence is essentially with so little legal weight and protection, they might as well not exist at all.
Most specifically because they are unenforceable outside of the state in which they were allowed.

Correct that DOMA is the wrench in the mechanism. Because it also limits the legal marriages of gay couples outside of the five states they are licensed in.

Hetero couples, are married anywhere and everywhere they are on this planet. Every state and country worldwide understands the primacy of the relationship. That it’s the SPOUSE that is the only other party to consult on any of the public business that couple engages in.
CU’s and DP’s render all that impossible, and DOMA renders that right of custody and primacy irrelevant everywhere.
So CU’s and DP’s are anywhere close to equal. Just both equally separate.
And definitely unequal to the legal NECESSITIES of marriage.

Regan DuCasse
January 7th, 2012 | LINK

Typo: I meant to say CU’s and DP’s AREN’T anywhere close to the equal of marriage.

And this arrangement is deliberately used against gay people only to it’s effect.

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