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    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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    1. Jeff Byrne on Feb 23, 2009 2:13:29 PM:

      I agree completely with this proposal -- achievable progress with enormous practical benefits. And I genuinely want this federal status to be called "Separate But Equal Unions". Calling it what it is provides a sense of historical context (we know that it is an interim step to plain old marriage for everyone) and could help make it palatable to proponents of "marriage or nothing". And can't you see Barney Frank gruffly selling a federal Separate But Equal Unions Act?

    1. mademark on Feb 23, 2009 4:57:08 PM:

      The proposal is unworkable, a solution that solves nothing, while offering capitulation masked as compromise. It would only apply to couples who have a domestic partnership/civil union in states that offer them (we’ll leave CT and MA out of it since we can actually get married there), leaving out millions who live in states that specifically prohibit any recognition. And expect a rush of yet more constitutional amendments to make sure any federal civil union law is moot.

      It will create a privileged class of gay people – those of us who live in states where we have domestic partnerships/civil unions. Meanwhile those most vulnerable among us, the poor and lower-income in states like Mississippi and Arkansas, will gain nothing (but of course poor gay people who live without any protections don’t ever seem to figure into this discussion).

      The proposal reeks of Apartheid. A federal civil unions law that only benefits a subset of gay and lesbian couples living in slightly more enlightened states is meaningless. Furthermore, the ‘conscience’ clause is an offense beyond description. The lesbian secretary working at a Catholic hospital has to find another job to insure her partner? Nice. What other indignities can we think of? And the op-ed’s statement that a large number of evangelicals deign to offer something ‘compassionate’ is insulting. I didn’t need their compassion when AIDS wiped out so many of my generation, and I don’t need it now. This is Jim Crow for homos.

    1. Andoni on Feb 23, 2009 8:36:19 PM:

      I don't think the previous writer read this idea before commenting. All people who live in the states that don't have CU laws or DP laws have to do is take a quick trip to one that does and get united. Then when they go back to Mississippi they will have federal civil union benefits which would include things like social security for your partner, etc.

      OK let's say this idea is really bad, what would you propose? Repeal of DOMA as the best route? Let's get delusional and pretend that DOMA is repealed tomorrow. Who does that benefit? If we use your logic, that only benefits the gays in MA and CT. The rest of the 48 are SOL if we follow your thinking from above --- because you don't seem to think people can drive to another state to get married (or united). And if they do, they still only get the federal benefits, not the state benefits......just like the civil union proposal.

      Now back to reality, what do you think can be achieved earlier, repeal of DOMA or passing civil unions as proposed? There is no doubt that passing civil unions can be achieved in a year of so and repealing DOMA will take possibly 10 years or more.

      This is a no brainer, do civil unions first, then continue to fight for marriage. Coast to coast marriage at the state level is even a farther off dream. Some of us don't have time to wait 10 years or more. Is it fair for you to insist we wait for the perfect.....as some of us get older and die and miss any opportunity for federal benefits -- when that opportunity exists now? If you can repeal DOMA before civil unions can be enacted, do it and I'll admit you were right.

    1. Joekener on Feb 23, 2009 10:50:59 PM:

      Well, i know many LGBT. espcially bisexual single, bisexual couples and bi curious at Bimingle.com . can view the bisexual style photos. hot but also honest girl and cute.

    1. SeaMex on Feb 23, 2009 10:56:01 PM:

      Any port in a storm. Is this the perfect answer? No, But let’s not pass up something along the way that would benefit folks. True equality is the real goal but you have to start somewhere.

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