February 15, 2009
In France, more straights opting for civil unions over marriage
Posted by: Andoni
Well here's a twist. In France more and more straight couples are opting for civil unions instead of marriage. And in France, when you say marriage, you are talking about an institution that is a civil marriage by the government, not the religious entities that most marriages have become in the US. So in France, your choices are civil marriage or civil unions.
France's civil union law was created in 1999 because gays were not allowed to marry, and they didn't want gays to be able to marry. However, in crafting the new law, which was understood to be for gays, the legislators left the language vague about gender. (Maybe this was because of the strong European Union rules requiring gender neutral and sexual orientation neutral language in new legislation -- they didn't want to trigger any challenges.)
Now, after 10 years, one third of all straight couples getting "hitched" in France, opt for civil unions instead of marriage. The number of civil unions has grown annually from 6000 in the first year of the law, to 140,000 in 2008 --- with 92% of the civil unions last year involving straight couples.
The main reason seems to be that a civil union offers about the same rights and benefits of marriage, but is easier to get out of than a marriage.
A few weeks ago I proposed that the gay community in this country should move forward aggressively, pursuing both marriage equality where possible and civil unions every place else, so as to cover as many gay couples with rights and benefits as fast as possible -- in all 50 states. With tongue in cheek, I added that after a while, straights might want the law expanded to include them too, especially the ones who advocated of the separation of church and state. Little did I know that the trend of straight couples toward civil unions had already started in France.
The most important point I would like to make is that it is terribly humorous and ironic that the French created civil unions to protect the institution of marriage..... and now civil unions are undermining marriage because people are opting for them instead of marriage. Talk about the law of unintended consequences.
So possibly the lesson for our country is that the best way to protect the institution of marriage is not to deny people marriage by creating a separate but equal system, but to allow gays to marry.
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