This week, the gay advocacy group Lambda Legal sent me a message, asking me to support Illinois' Civil Unions ballot measure. At first, it appeared like a victory for committed gay couples seeking legal recognition and protection in Illinois.
But then I became impatient. Once again I had to ask: Why throw so much energy into what amounts to a consolation prize when there is momentum for the real thing? Why not fight for the institution of marriage itself?
Why is it that gay people still have to compromise their most fundamental rights as human beings? And how can America claim to be the world's moral watchdog on gay rights when we cannot reach a reasonable national consensus about our own gay citizens, one devoid of fear and misinformation?
Yes, civil unions allow for some of the same legal protections as marriage. (The bill even allows for civil unions for heterosexual couples...Really? That would be like choosing to sleep on the cold ground when a warm bed is available).
But Civil Unions do not provide all of the rights that are entitled to married couples. Click here for a good summary of the differences between civil unions vs. marriage, including:
•Marriage: Over 1,049 federal and state level benefits (see list)Rosa Parks, in 1955, refused to give up her seat to a white passenger and move to the back of the bus. Had Civil Union proponents been around then, would they have told her, "Go to the back Rosa.. you are still on the bus, and you will still get the benefit of the ride." --?
•Civil Unions: Over 300 state level benefits. *No federal protection (see benefit example)
•Marriage: Couples can file both federal and state tax returns jointly.
•Civil Unions: Couples can only file jointly in the state of civil registration.
•Marriage: Partners can make emergency medical decisions.
•Civil Unions: Partners can only make medical decisions in the registered state. Partners may not be able to make decisions out of state.
In Uganda, it is likely that the "kill the gays bill" will be voted into law. Once it becomes law, it will provide for life imprisonment or execution, simply for being a homosexual. Click here for a recent article about the origins of the bill and its current status. It was after March 2009 workshop organized by three American Evangelical Christians that the "kill the gays" movement began.
In the un-civil political climate we are in, it is not out of the question for a bill to be introduced here some day..... Will we fight then?
Unless we wake up and do the reasonable and moral thing, and allow gays in America their basic rights to marry their partners (or to openly serve their country), we would seem to have no footing in our stance against oppression elsewhere.
So I reluctantly withhold my support of the Illinois Civil Unions Bill. I can't compromise my very being any more. We can do better.