Rex Wockner reports that during an interview with MTV, Presidential candidate John Kerry said:
"My feeling is that what is important is equal protection under the law. An equal-protection clause, I think, pertains to the rights you give to people, not to the name you give to something, so I'm for civil unions. That gives people the rights: the rights of partnership, the rights of inheritance of property, the rights of taxation and so forth. But I think there is a distinction between what we have traditionally called
'marriage' between a man and a woman and those rights. ... I believe very strongly that we can advance the cause of equality by moving toward civil unions. But that's where my position is at this point in time.
What is distinct is the institutional name. Whatever people look at as the sacrament within a church or within a synagogue or within a mosque as a religious institution, there is a distinction. The civil state really just adopted that. It's the rights that are important, not the name of the institution."
Okay, so why not just call it marriage again? I'm not sure who exactly is indicted by this statement. Is this a sad reflection our social climate, where a candidate who is, for all intents and purposes, in favor of a civil arrangement that is equal to marriage in every way, forced to call it by a different name? Or does this reflect poorly on Senator Kerry? If he's in favor of gay marriage, which it sounds like he is, shouldn't he just have the courage to admit it and call it what it is? The answer is probably both. Mr. Kerry can't hope to win if he comes out in favor of gay marriage, but dancing around the issue and coming up with a "separate but equal" plan is laughable. We all know how well "separate but equal" worked. Still, while complete candor would be welcome, civil unions could be a good transistory step on our way to federally recognized full-blown gay marriage.
Although, with gay marriage set to happen in mere hours in Massachusetts, who really needs a transition? If Senator Kerry is proposing, however, that the government shouldn't be in the business of marriage at all, but rather leaving the sticky issue of marriage to religious institutions and creating civil unions, I'd find that pleasantly refreshing. This idea certainly isn't new, but, as far as I'm aware, this could be the first time a major political figure has suggested it (if that is what he is doing). If everyone is given a civil union in the eyes of the government, that certainly seems fair play all around. And then you have the option of joining a religious organization that supports the type of marriage you personally believe in. Sounds like everybody wins, no matter how you spell it.