My best friend teaches high school, and one of his students had a pragmatic idea. I decided to run with it and let you fine folks discuss. Here it is: Abolish the institution of marriage. Across the country. And replace it with civil unions.
Why? A couple of reasons:
1. Right now, Iowa, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire all permit same-sex marriage, but for any gay couple that marries in those five states and decides to move outside of them, the marriage is suddenly null and void. Really? A marriage goes kablooey when you cross state lines?
2. The institution of marriage is a gross violation of the separation of church and state. Although marriage licenses have be to filed in a municipal office, ministers, priests, and other religious figures can legally conduct a marriage ceremony. Who's confused? (Read your legal tender, too. In God We Trust. Things are murky.)
3. More specifically, currently certain rights and privileges are enumerated only for married couples, such as the adoption of children. Obviously, that leaves certain couples discriminated against. In many states, homosexual couples are barred from adoption. But if we eliminate marriage as a government institution, civil unions will extend these rights to all couples. And marriage will still be allowed, but it will exist as a religious institution only. Translation: if your priest or rabbi will marry you in the church or temple, go ahead.
4. Before you hit me with the "let the states decide about same-sex marriage" argument, let's look at our history. Previously, when individual states were the final arbiters of marriage, it led to unfortunate consequences. The most egregious example? The Jim Crow laws of the 19th and 20th centuries banned heterosexual marriages among interracial couples. It wasn't until the 1960s that those laws were finally considered unconstitutional. So ... no.
5. Marriage is broken. Today, almost half of them end in divorce. And, of the Americans who choose to marry again, 70 percent eventually file for divorce.
Need more? A quick web search for "books on marriage" produced these interesting titles: The Marriage You've Always Wanted, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, 10 Lessons to Transform Your Marriage, Fighting for Your Marriage, How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It, Why Did I Marry You Anyway? Man, being married sounds exhausting.
You want more? How about that dirty little phrase "family values?" When you consider the fact that our own governor tiptoed through someone else's tulips and then throw in Britney Spear's 55-hour Vegas marriage, how can you even talk about that phrase and try to keep a straight (forgive the pun) face?
Let me be clear. I want the 1,138 rights currently guaranteed by the thing we call marriage, and I will not stop until I have them.
At the same time, I grew up watching the same movies you straight kids did. Which means that in my head, there is the dress, the walk down the aisle, and someone "official" there to make my commitment "real."
Whatever we end up calling it, the M-word or civil unions, it's about loving someone through ups and downs, becoming members of each other's extended families, and often, but not always, raising children together. For the life of me, I can't see how my love and commitment could ever diminish or taint anyone else's.
I'll leave you with this gem uttered by U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) after a fellow congressman's negative comments about the Domestic Partner Benefits and Obligations Act: "It is unsettling to me to think that because of the way that someone might feel, the way they might act, circumstances they have no control over, that the rest of us would sit in judgment to deny them the very things that we would want for ourselves."