So this has been one of the most frustrating aspects of the discussion surrounding same-sex marriage. Ultimately, it is COMPLETELY an issue of terminology.

So I recognize this is a complex issue, and that people want equal treatment in the eyes of the law. I’m all for it. But it seem to me the primary distinction separating people’s attitudes, and where most of the conflict comes from has NOTHING at all to do with the real issue, but instead has to do with what people call what.

I may have my figures wrong, but last I checked, I believe there are 3-5 states that already recognize, LEGALLY, that there is a difference, in the eyes of the law between a “civil union” and a “marriage”. Essentially, a civil union is the LEGAL agreement between two people expressing their desire to be viewed with such status in the eyes of the law, and be treated with the rights and rules inherent to that union. It gives them different tax privileges and status, new laws to pay attention to regarding their treatment of each other, and any offspring they may choose to have, adopt, or whatever, etc. The term “marriage”, on the other hand, has NO LEGAL STATUS. It is STRICTLY a religious ceremony, and carries NO LEGAL RIGHTS or privileges.

In my mind, this is precisely the way it should be. There should be a separation between the church and state (religious vs. legal views of a union), and never the twain shall meet. Most of the reason that people’s panties are all in a bunch of about same sex unions is that many people are insisting on using the term ‘marriage’ to indicate the nature of the relationship. To some, this infringes on their religious beliefs as to what that union should represent. Many religions and factions thereof do not recognize same sex unions, and that is their prerogative. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that I DEFEND their right to have such a view or distinction.

However, as soon as you remove the religious implications of the union, and simply stress the legal rights and privileges that the CIVIL aspects infer, noone really argues anymore. There isn’t any reason to! Why would anyone get offended that a gay couple, or ANY couple for that matter, choose to view themselves as a couple in the eyes of the law?

To me, this bypasses the whole issue of gay vs. hetero entirely. It reduces the remaining complaints to religious ones, and quite frankly, everyone is free to argue that until they are blue in the face. I just don’t care. If a gay couple is seeking recognition of their union in the eyes of the more conservative sides of Christianity, they’re going to run into problems. Noone is FORCING them to practice one particular faith over any other, and they are free to select one that is going to be more sympathetic to their other world views and lifestyle choices. The same is not, in general, true of the legal system and how you represent yourself in its eyes. Make your own deductions.

It was also brought up to me in a discussion around this topic that one of the large complaints among the gay population is that they “shouldn’t have to” have a different term for a marriage for gay couples vs. hetero couples. YES! I couldn’t agree more. This whole “separate, but equal” thing is just another demonstration of the confusion these two terms are causing. If everyone could simply get onto the same page about what the two terms MEAN, then that simply wouldn’t be an issue either. Yes, it would mean that ALL states need to make the distinction between a ‘marriage’ and a ‘civil union’. There would have to be a sort of retroactive policy statement that anyone previously having received a “Marriage Certification” would now automatically be considered a “civil union’, and they could work out the remaining religious implications with their church of choice. There would also need to be some additional distinctions or rules made about who was granted the authority to perform a “civil union”. A “marriage” under this new set of terms, would be strictly a function of a religious person qualified to do so, and I don’t believe they should also be granted the ability to perform civil unions. Too much room for interpretation there as well.

As soon as you left that open, you’d have a Baptist preacher (or whatever Baptists call them) who would perform a Baptist “marriage”, but wouldn’t perform the civil functions for people he or she deemed unacceptable. Blah, no thanks. Keep the church and state separate, thank you very much.