Partnership, Union, or Marriage?

Marriage, definitely.  Marriage equality is what I’m working toward.  Not gay marriage, not civil unions for same sex couples, and not just a domestic partnership registry.  Just civil marriage for any couple willing to make the legal commitment to each other and accept the rights and responsibilities which come with marriage.  Any couple of any race, religion, ethnic heritage, sexual orientation, income, political affiliation, or citizenship.

Government must be radically secular.  Religious groups may make their own rules for who may marry within the tradition (and government will not interfere – another First Amendment guarantee).  Individuals may choose their partners according to their own conscience.  Government, however, belongs to all its subjects and must guarantee the basic human and civil rights of all its citizens.

My husband of 25 years told me, on our second date, that our relationship could never become serious because I wasn’t Jewish.  I’m still not Jewish and he did not become an Episcopalian, but the irreconcilable religious difference meant we were married in neither church nor synagogue but by the wonderfully warm yet dignified Judge Walter Rice.  A civil marriage.

Civil marriage provides the infrastructure (and blog readers know I’m interested in infrastructure) for building a life and family together leaving couples free to argue about money, religion, children, jobs, irritating habits, extended family, and more.  Government cannot possibly ensure the success of any marriage (and I think most of us straight folks are glad the state stays out of our relationships), but can and must guarantee the rights and privileges of marriage are available equally and without discrimination to support all families.

My Council colleague, Rhonda Pownell, is certainly correct when she says this is an issue for state and federal government.  Certainly, I’ll be voting against the proposed constitutional amendment in November as the first step toward marriage equality in Minnesota (same sex marriage is not legal; the amendment just seeks to constitutionalize the injustice) and I’ll lobby my state and federal representatives, too (more advocacy information is available at Minnesotans United for All Families).

This is also a very local issue for Northfield.  A domestic partnership registry isn’t much, but its the best tool at the local level, so let’s start there.