This past week, New Hampshire joined the ranks of the very few states who are beginning to return some rights back to the people by “recognizing” civil unions and granting some legal status to those who can qualify for the civil union status.
This is a bitter-sweet story for those of us who believe that marriage is a religious/social institution — an institution that governments (local, state or federal) have no business sanctioning. The ‘sweet’ part is the fact that now one-fifth of our 50 states either have or will soon have some laws on the books that grant either domestic partnership status or civil union status to same-sex couples; that’s a step in the right direction and it indicates that at least some American legislators are starting to understand that government interference into the institution of marriage has gone far enough (far too far by some standards).
According to a recent NPR story:
- California: Has had a domestic partnership law since 2005.
- Connecticut: Allowed civil unions in April 2005 and has pending legislation to approve gay marriage.
- Hawaii: Has domestic partnership laws.
- Iowa: The constitutionality of their Defense of Marriage Act is being challenged in court right now.
- Massachusetts: Has permitted same-sex marriages, for state citizens only, since May, 2004.
- New Hampshire approved civil unions today (5.31/07)
- New Jersey: Allowed civil unions in December 2006
- New Mexico: Is working on domestic partnership legislation; it passed the House but is being blocked in the Senate.
- New York: In July of 2006 the State Supreme Court ruled that the state legislature pass a law to allow some form of marriage, union or partnership for gays.
- Vermont: Allowed civil unions since 2000
- Rhode Island: The doors are open; they have no law or policy which forbids gay marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships.
The ‘bitter’ part of the equation is, of course, that the government, with the judicial system’s blessing, has assumed that they have the right to determine who can marry who and, in a broader sense, determine that ANY marriage is invalid unless its licensed (sanctioned) by the state.
I realize that I’m complaining about a custom that started in the Middle Ages, but its longevity doesn’t make it appropriate. According to Wikipedia:
“International human rights law, and many constitutions guarantee the right to marry a partner of one’s choice.”
Wkiipedia also presents the government rationale for issuing marriage licenses in defiance of International Human Rights Laws:
“The rationale in such states for marriage licenses is that the state has an overriding right on behalf of its other citizens to protect them from disease or improper marriages being performed, to keep accurate state records, or even to assure that marriage partners have had adequate time to think before marrying, in the interests of the greater society.”
In other words, the rational is that marriage licenses are issued ‘for the greater good.’ Well, as we all know, there have been many injustices perpetrated on the public by various governments ‘for the greater good; and, in this case, the rational is paper thin and, in my opinion, indefensible.
Those of us who oppose government interference or regulation of civil matters that should logically be outside of the government’s domain have an impossibly long, tough ‘row to hoe’. Our U.S. Governments have no inherent “rights” under the Constitution, they only have responsibilities; its the people who have rights and, over the years the people have let many of those rights slip away into the hands of governments; marriage is one of those rights.
(Just for the record: Whymrhymer is a happily-divorced hetrosexual)
National Public Radio Online: New Hampshire Approves Same-Sex Unions
SeaCoast Online: With civil unions, N.H. is a leader in human rights
Wikipedia: Marriage License
From the blogs:
New Hampshire Blog: New Hampshire House OKs civil-union bill