Thursday, January 19, 2006

Connecticut Conjugal Conundrum

Massachusetts' marital mode show how simple same-sex marriage can be. Except for the inane federal tax quirks requiring extra, different filings, things go swimmingly. That's just the result of pettiness in D.C.

It's similar to the common 1970s question to a newly-wed woman about "Isn't it a lot of trouble to keep your name instead of changing it to your husband?" The answer should include a snort. It is zero problem to keep the name. If you choose to change it, you go to the motor-vehicle, banks, health, life, house and car insurance folk, and literally everyone who has records of you and fill out the form, show them your marriage license and so forth.

Adding same-sex couples to those who can wed is simple. Creating a whole class of civil unions, domestic partnerships or other halfway houses of quasi-marriage is hard, complex and confusing.

Thus, in Connecticut, few homosexual couples have registered civil union. Not only is it a pain, but they can peek over the border to see the honesty and simplicity of marriage in Massachusetts.

Other states that may face the same issue already have fretters. An excellent exposition of this in Washington State appears in an article by Eli Sanders in Seattle's The Stranger. The subhead to Wedding March is Should Washington's Gays Accept Civil Unions If Gay Marriage Fails?

That is an apt, timely query. The state's highest court has been dragging the issue of SSM up and down the judicial corridors on a cord of indecision. Two lower courts there have ruled that forbidding SSM is unconstitutional.

The justices were to deliver their decision in November, in December, and who knows? They let out the word that the ruling will be by the middle of March, before the legislative session ends. The law-making gods would not return to Olympia until January 2007.

This sked leak raises the strong possibility of confirming the lower courts. This would force the legislature to provide an appropriate legal remedy tout de suite.

According to Sanders, this makes local gay activists wonder, "Would legislators have the courage to endorse full equality——semantic, cultural, and legal——by approving same-sex marriage? Or would they, in an election year, opt for the less politically perilous solution of civil unions? And if Democrats in the legislature seem split, in which direction should the gay community push them?"

The legislature is Democratic, but there are Democrats, Democrats and Democrats. On the Dark Side, Republicans have managed to obstruct simple gay-rights legislation for three decades. Lead legislator on the SSM issue, Seattle Rep. Ed Murray, has an SSM law in-hand, but fears a long battle. As he put it, "Do we get caught in a situation, if it takes five or ten years, where the good becomes the enemy of the perfect?"

He sees SSM as perfect and civil unions as good. He sounds a bit too much like a waffler.

Other gay activists want Massachusetts' equality, legal simplicity and respect. Director of Freedom to Marry Evan Wolfson opposed a civil-union compromise. He says it "misunderstands how you end opposition. You don't end opposition by appeasing it, you end opposition by allowing fair-minded people to grow." He's willing to stick out a "many-year struggle."

Murray sort of concurs, adding, "I think if it takeyearsrs, we should be going after it in pieces."

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