?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Two interesting stories in the news this morning.

Illinois governor signs civil unions bill"
France upholds ban on gay couples"

Essentially, civil unions are now available in Chicagoland, which is a step in the right direction. Civil unions have been legal in France since 1999; that article is reporting that the French chose not to extend marriage to rights to gay couples. Apparently being married is legally different (as in: aside from church considerations) than having a civil union there.

First off, good on Illinois. This is an important step in the right direction.

What really interested me, though, is what the word marriage signifies in different cultures. I'm teaching the a priori/a posteriori divide in a few hours, so maybe the idea of definitions is just on my mind more than it usually would be. But I was struck by the way marriage was described in both contexts.

As an American, I typically think of civil union as marriage without the church. Of course, "separate but equal" went the way of different water fountains before I was ever born, and so I'm against the idea of one kind of union for heterosexuals and another for homosexuals. And I'm not blind to the practicalities. With our patchwork quilt of laws referring to marriage, there will be some civil laws referring to marriage and if you're not married you don't get the benefit of that law.

All that said, in an ideal world I tend to think marriage would be a "top-up" for the religiously inclined. Both hetero- and homosexuals would register with a civil union from the government and that would give them all the rights today enjoyed by married heterosexuals. Marriage on the other hand would be a totally separate institution, a sacrament administered by the church where secular law was not affected. This doesn't mean churches would be right in restricting it to different-sex couples. I personally believe that, if you think marriage is important to human well-being and if you think a religiously-approved ceremony is important to centering that relationship on God (i.e. a wedding is more than just an excuse to party), then the church needs to reevaluate its stance on gay marriage anyway. But this should be a theological decision, and ideally not tied up with politics and civil rights.

That's what intrigued me so much about the France case. Apparently over there marriage is better than civil union in some way, so that same-sex couples might reasonably want to have a marriage even when they already can have a union. Given the *cough* not-so-central place religious institutions have in French society, I don't think they're talking about the kind of religious "top-up" view of marriage I described above. So, two questions for everyone:

  • Americans: Say I could do a search-and-replace on all federal, state and local law so that wherever the word marriage appears I changed it to civil union. Would that be acceptable? Put another way: setting aside the religious aspects, is there any difference between civil union and marriage?

  • Europeans: What's the difference between marriage and civil unions in France? Am I missing something? And perhaps more importantly, is it a good distinction? Should there be a difference between the two.


Apropos to this topic, I recently discovered a cover Sara Bareilles did of Beyonce's "Single Ladies." It's... interesting, musically. Really nice! Totally different from Beyonce's, but has a lot of soul and I think it's even more fascinating because of its difference from Beyonce's version.

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
celandineb
Feb. 4th, 2011 03:13 pm (UTC)
Say I could do a search-and-replace on all federal, state and local law so that wherever the word marriage appears I changed it to civil union. Would that be acceptable? Put another way: setting aside the religious aspects, is there any difference between civil union and marriage?

I don't think there should be a difference between civil union and marriage, religious aspects aside. At the moment obviously there is - they are separate and unequal. I 100% agree with you that civil union ought to be what conveys whatever benefits/rights/obligations to the joined couple, regardless of their sexes/genders, and that the religious angle should be a top-off, completely optional from a legal standpoint.

What simply amazes me is how insistent some folks are that only their definition of marriage should be acceptable. They really wouldn't like it if that were turned around, and someone else's definition were imposed on them. Even biblically speaking, there's an awful lot of polygyny and concubines and other arrangements that are not "one man, one woman". If their marriage is so shaky that acknowledging another type of marital arrangement will cause theirs to fall apart, theirs is pretty sad to begin with.
dreamflower02
Feb. 4th, 2011 04:29 pm (UTC)
All that said, in an ideal world I tend to think marriage would be a "top-up" for the religiously inclined. Both hetero- and homosexuals would register with a civil union from the government and that would give them all the rights today enjoyed by married heterosexuals. Marriage on the other hand would be a totally separate institution, a sacrament administered by the church where secular law was not affected.

I have believed this for years! And yet it is only very recently that I've come across anyone else who thought that!
vulgarweed
Feb. 4th, 2011 05:40 pm (UTC)
See, I'm still not on board with the idea that "marriage" is by definition religious at all. My parents are atheists, they were married in a courthouse by a judge with no mention of God or sacraments of any kind at all--and 42 years later, they are still every bit as married as anybody who had a full formal high church production. Not "civil unioned." Married. They don't have a "separate but equal" status when compared to a religious couple, they have the exact same status. Even their very religious acquaintances have never questioned it.

Marriage is a word with a lot of meaning, and religion is actually only a very small part of that, IMO.
fallingtowers
Feb. 4th, 2011 06:46 pm (UTC)
I don't know anything about the legal differences between a civil marriage and a civil union (PACS) in France, but Germany has a similar distinction, as you will probably know. We have so-called civil partnerships, which are -- legally speaking -- close to marriage in many respects. However, unlike marriage, the concept is not protected by the constitution and could, theoretically speaking, be repealed the legislature again. Moreover, married couples also have certain financial benefits with regard to tax cuts and pension plans that homosexual couples don't.
julifolo
Feb. 4th, 2011 09:34 pm (UTC)
I think I've said this before...
I prefer Civil Marriage, Church Wedding ... if there has to be a "difference" (which I don't think is necessary).

Gay people I know have been fighting for the word "marriage" & I respect that.
mrowe
Feb. 5th, 2011 03:52 am (UTC)
The situation in the Netherlands is that we have both marriage and civil partnerships.

Marriage: primarily civil (it is in fact illegal to have a church wedding without the civil ceremony), and since 2001 also open for gay couples.

Civil partnership: exists since 1998, and is mostly the same as marriage, except the father has to separately acknowledge any children (or in the case of a same-sex partnership the partner who is not the biological parent adopts the child), rather than that implicitly and automatically being the case. For most/all other purposes (tax, mortgage, inheritance, etc.) a partnership is the same as a marriage. One difference is that it's possible to get 'divorced' without a judge being involved.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

Profile

marta_bee
fidesquaerens
Website

Latest Month

October 2019
S M T W T F S
  12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

Tags

Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Tiffany Chow