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Friday, March 4, 2011

Civil Unions for All?

In a report at MyFoxDC, Del. Alston's position has been clarified considerably. Alston wishes to do away with marriage altogether, and have Maryland recognize only civil unions.
"I believe, as a government, we should issue something that is the same for everybody... And I think, if we wanted to issue a license to everybody and call it a civil union license. And then everybody in the state - whether heterosexual or homosexual - would get the same exact license."
This position clarification makes clear that she recognizes that it would be discriminatory to have marriage for one group and civil unions for another - there would be no separate but equal issue as I wrote about yesterday. But, have we really come to this? Is Alston really saying that she would rather see "marriage" cease to exist in Maryland than extend the right to marry to same sex couples? Following the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision ending racial segregation in public schools many state and local governments resisted integration. The Virginia Assembly passed laws allowing the governor to close integrated schools. In Prince Edward County Virginia every public school in the county was closed to avoid integration.

This is just not the path we should be following.

And let me be clear, I am not equating the conditions of racial segregation to the marriage/civil union issue, rather I am equating the basic concept of providing separate institutions or provisions based on a decision that a designated class of people are not deserving of the same rights and protections afforded to most. Civil unions, whether for same sex couples or for everyone, only make sense in a world where same sex couples are considered to be unworthy of the institution of marriage.

A new poll from Pew finds that public support has been rising every year and at present 45% support it and 46% oppose. But when considering polls that provide respondents with a choice between Opposing same sex marriage, Supporting same sex marriage, or Supporting civil unions, an average of poll responses compiled by Charles Franklin shows a clear plurality now supports same sex marriage. In the span of only 4 years support for same sex marriage has moved from a third place finish among those three options to the preferred option.

The American people are clearly moving in the direction of outright support for marriage equality - Maryland has the chance to be on the leading edge of that trend. Ending marriage and replacing it with civil unions would not be a step forward, it would be a step behind.