February 22, 2009
Another civil unions proposal
Posted by: Andoni
Both Chris and I have each elucidated on ways to take take advantage of President Barack Obama's explicitly stated support for full civil unions on the White House web page to score a giant leap forward for gay rights. Chris' post on this topic is here and mine here .
The Washington Blade also did a story exploring how Obama's civil union proposal might be implemented.
So far, however, no such bill to recognize civil unions is on the radar screen at HRC (Human Rights Campaign) or the offices of any of our three openly gay elected Representatives, Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin or Jared Polis.
But the civil unions idea keeps rolling along. In today's New York Times, David Blankenhorn, a religious conservative, and Jonathon Rauch, a gay marriage advocate, have teamed up in an Op Ed to make a specific proposal on how to move gay marriage forward -- in the form of civil unions. The key to passage of this bill which recognizes gay marriages as civil unions is a compromise with the religious community exempting it from having to recognize these unions and also giving them a wide exemption from any anti-discrimination laws based on sexual orientation. Just as Chris and I proposed, it defines civil unions as any same sex marriage or civil union legally performed by a state.
It is heartening to see the mainstream media picking up on Obama's civil unions and coming to the same conclusions Chris and I have. Also, since the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) already gives religious institutions an exception (this bill would broaden it), I can live with the proposal in today's New York Times.
There are several issues that must be considered before this bill is introduced. The main one is that if this is the compromise position, it would have to introduced with enough co-sponsors (or counted votes) in the Senate and the House that it passes as is, without amendment. Normally, such a bill would start out as a marriage equality bill, and end up like this after the compromise. If we start with this bill and work it through the normal channels of the House and Senate, the compromise wouldn't be worth too much.
My second main concern is that we would have to get our own left wing on board. There are people in our community that are for "marriage or nothing" and would try to kill this, even though it moves us 3/4 of the way to the prize and would recognize gay marriages from MA and CT.
I'm encouraged that Obama's willingness to support full civil unions is generating ideas on how to take advantage of this and move gay rights forward.
Now I have to ask, where are Barney, Tammy, and Jared.....and, of course, HRC. Being the leaders of our community bears some responsiblity to ..... well, actually lead.
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