Ten year anniversary of civil unions in the US

Timothy Kincaid

July 1st, 2010

On July 1, 2000, Vermont’s civil unions law went into effect and for the first time, Americans could find a place in which their relationships had all the state law protections.

I remember this event. And at the time it was revolutionary, amazing.

After the disappointment in Hawaii, here was a state in which you could get married. Well… not married exactly, but close enough.

And, to me, this seemed like the solution. Let the straight folk have marriage as long as we got all the rights and privileges.

Of course, at the time I didn’t know that hospitals and schools and the local pool would just ignore civil unions, not knowing what they were or how to treat them. And we did not yet have the experience of people coming back from Canada and having their neighbors treat them differently because they were “really married.” But that all came later and at the time we were euphoric.

And we truly had good reason to be.

Vermont proved to the nation (though they were not listening well) that there was nothing to be feared from recognizing gay unions. The sky didn’t fall. Churches didn’t close. The state wasn’t destroyed by God’s wrath. And maple sap kept on rising in the trees. To folks other than us, this truly momentous occasion just wasn’t all that exciting.

And this lack of dramatic consequence no doubt played into the decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Court to recognize full legal marriage in 2003 and to the dedication of the legislators not to thwart that decision.

And this too wasn’t shocking. Oh, yes a President campaigned against gay marriage, and states across the nation panicked and passed amendments to “protect” marriage from being destroyed by gays, but in Massachusetts heterosexual marriage thrived.

And soon there states who decided that they wanted to be part of the movement. Some started with minor recognition and limited provisions, but soon there were votes in the legislature to advance to marriage without courts demanding it. And, fittingly, in 2009 Vermont’s legislature became the first to do so.

So here we are ten years later, and the world is a different place.

We have five states (and the District of Columbia) with full marriage equality: Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, Iowa, and New Hampshire. And we have two more states, New York and Maryland, which will recognize the same-sex marriage conducted in those full equality states.

And others are on their way. Five more states have either civil unions or domestic partnerships that have all of the state benefits, responsibilities, and rights as marriage: New Jersey, California, Oregon, Washington, and Nevada. And by Tuesday, Governor Lingle will decide whether Hawaii will join them.

And there are some states who do not yet provide equal treatment to same-sex couples, but who do at least give the state’s recognition to their union: Colorado, Wisconsin, Maine, Rhode Island, and to a small extent Hawaii.

In ten years we have made tremendous progress. We’ve had many setbacks and disappointments, but it is astonishing how far we’ve come. And time is on our side; there’s no telling where we will be in another decade.


July 1st, 2010

We went to Vermont for a civil union as soon as we could and everyone there was terrific. We then went to Canada as soon as Ontario legalized marriage. And you’re right: I never thought this would happen in our lifetime. Though New York state, where we live, pay taxes and vote, recognizes our marriage it means very little in practical terms. Here’s hoping that will soon change.

And BTW, I congratulate you on your patience with the commenters at Throckmorton’s site. One really can’t budge them from their smug self-satisfaction but they seem like reasonably decent people and I don’t like to unload invective on them. Theorizing on all things gay seems to give them something to do to fill their time. You answer with grace and tact, even to Ugandan creeps, and I salute you.


July 1st, 2010

No Timothy, Americans had NOTHING from our past that could have ever hinted that “separate but equal” civil rights would be something other that equal or would be problematic in any way.

I understand what you are saying. We were desperate at the time for SOMETHING, anything was better than nothing and Civil Unions was WAY better than nothing.

However, I think many of us, even then, saw Civil Unions as A step in the right direction but knew that they were NOT the long-term answer to the civil discrimination against gay couples. We saw it then as a “separate but (not) equal” step that would eventually prove to be no more acceptable than “separate but equal” public education.

Leave A Comment

All comments reflect the opinions of commenters only. They are not necessarily those of anyone associated with Box Turtle Bulletin. Comments are subject to our Comments Policy.

(Required, never shared)

PLEASE NOTE: All comments are subject to our Comments Policy.


Latest Posts

The Things You Learn from the Internet

"The Intel On This Wasn't 100 Percent"

From Fake News To Real Bullets: This Is The New Normal

NC Gov McCrory Throws In The Towel

Colorado Store Manager Verbally Attacks "Faggot That Voted For Hillary" In Front of 4-Year-Old Son

Associated Press Updates "Alt-Right" Usage Guide

A Challenge for Blue Bubble Democrats

Baptist Churches in Dallas, Austin Expelled Over LGBT-Affirming Stance

Featured Reports

What Are Little Boys Made Of?

In this original BTB Investigation, we unveil the tragic story of Kirk Murphy, a four-year-old boy who was treated for “cross-gender disturbance” in 1970 by a young grad student by the name of George Rekers. This story is a stark reminder that there are severe and damaging consequences when therapists try to ensure that boys will be boys.

Slouching Towards Kampala: Uganda’s Deadly Embrace of Hate

When we first reported on three American anti-gay activists traveling to Kampala for a three-day conference, we had no idea that it would be the first report of a long string of events leading to a proposal to institute the death penalty for LGBT people. But that is exactly what happened. In this report, we review our collection of more than 500 posts to tell the story of one nation’s embrace of hatred toward gay people. This report will be updated continuously as events continue to unfold. Check here for the latest updates.

Paul Cameron’s World

In 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote that “[Paul] Cameron’s ‘science’ echoes Nazi Germany.” What the SPLC didn”t know was Cameron doesn’t just “echo” Nazi Germany. He quoted extensively from one of the Final Solution’s architects. This puts his fascination with quarantines, mandatory tattoos, and extermination being a “plausible idea” in a whole new and deeply disturbing light.

From the Inside: Focus on the Family’s “Love Won Out”

On February 10, I attended an all-day “Love Won Out” ex-gay conference in Phoenix, put on by Focus on the Family and Exodus International. In this series of reports, I talk about what I learned there: the people who go to these conferences, the things that they hear, and what this all means for them, their families and for the rest of us.

Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”
Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends On How The Meaning of the Word "Change" Changes
Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"

The Heterosexual Agenda: Exposing The Myths

At last, the truth can now be told.

Using the same research methods employed by most anti-gay political pressure groups, we examine the statistics and the case studies that dispel many of the myths about heterosexuality. Download your copy today!

And don‘t miss our companion report, How To Write An Anti-Gay Tract In Fifteen Easy Steps.

Testing The Premise: Are Gays A Threat To Our Children?

Anti-gay activists often charge that gay men and women pose a threat to children. In this report, we explore the supposed connection between homosexuality and child sexual abuse, the conclusions reached by the most knowledgeable professionals in the field, and how anti-gay activists continue to ignore their findings. This has tremendous consequences, not just for gay men and women, but more importantly for the safety of all our children.

Straight From The Source: What the “Dutch Study” Really Says About Gay Couples

Anti-gay activists often cite the “Dutch Study” to claim that gay unions last only about 1½ years and that the these men have an average of eight additional partners per year outside of their steady relationship. In this report, we will take you step by step into the study to see whether the claims are true.

The FRC’s Briefs Are Showing

Tony Perkins’ Family Research Council submitted an Amicus Brief to the Maryland Court of Appeals as that court prepared to consider the issue of gay marriage. We examine just one small section of that brief to reveal the junk science and fraudulent claims of the Family “Research” Council.

Daniel Fetty Doesn’t Count

Daniel FettyThe FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics aren’t as complete as they ought to be, and their report for 2004 was no exception. In fact, their most recent report has quite a few glaring holes. Holes big enough for Daniel Fetty to fall through.