Monday, June 14, 2004

Civil Unions

Just Left asks about Civil Unions. Where do we all stand?

To be blunt, I don't think it goes far enough. As a matter of basic equality, gays are entitled to have their relationships recognised by the state. The way we currently do this is through marriage. The government should go the whole way and amend the Marriage Act, not try and implement some "separate but equal" status to keep gays in the ghetto.

Unfortunately, I don't think that's politically achievable at this time. And Civil Unions are certainly a progressive step - granting everything but the name. In a country with strong anti-discrimination legislation like ours, that may not be so bad. So I'll support the bill as a progressive step, while continuing to push for full equality.

"But what about the children?", you ask? Well, what about them? Contrary to the assertions of people like the Maxim Institute, state involvement in marriage is not about children. We inherited our marriage laws from Britain, and their original reason for getting involved was to prevent the "perils of clandestinity" - i.e. bigamy. We have state involvement to provide a register - so we know who is married and who is not - and standards - so other people cannot say that you are not married because the ceremony wasn't conducted according to their peculiar religious tradition (the latter being the primary reason for the British introduction of civil marriage in 1836). It's really the same reason for government involvement in land titles - to provide clarity and enforceability.

I think the above sort of framework is perfectly justifiable in a liberal society, provided it is done on a non-discriminatory basis. And that's where our current legislation falls down. We allow heterosexual couples to marry, but not gays. This should be corrected.