Um, its a little more than semantics

Week in Review had a piece today perpetuating the idea, if not maliciously, that the difference between civil unions and marriage is just a question of words, and that the only thing separating the two states is some mysterious power in the word 'marriage.' Proponents of this argument who care about that difference infer that gay people, then, ask too much by insisting on calling their unions marriages when a civil union incorporating all the same benefits would do just as well and avoid a lot of undesirable fuss.

This is maybe the greatest (reasonable) myth in the gay marriage debate. One has only to ponder for a moment the opportunities for abuse, confusion and lawsuits until the end of time that a new category mirroring marriage but requiring a whole new universe of legal terminology would entail. The variety of institutions, companies and services which have some role in enforcing marriage status in our society is immense, and the process of ensuring every clerk in every hospital, every claim officer in every insurance company, every secretary in every elementary school in the country has an adequate and reliable understanding of what 'civil union' means is a highly improbable undertaking.

Civil unions are fine benchmarks, and there's a chance we will never get farther than that, but no one should be fooled into thinking that real equality is achievable by anything less than simply erasing the gender requirements of marriage applicants. Equality with different names is a joke, and it is quite disturbingly similar to the rhetoric surrounding school integration. And no, I don't think that is going too far. It is simply pointing out that the idea that you can get legal equality in practice while appeasing the social stigma causing the inequality is a fool's solution.


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