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Marriage or Civil Unions? Center for Inquiry Urges Equality First, Last, and Always April 17, 2008

Posted by Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy in Press Release.

Whatever the official relationship is called—marriage, civil union, registered partnership—the Center for Inquiry believes it should be the same for same-sex and heterosexual couples. All couples should have equal rights under federal and state law, the Center urges in its recent position paper, “Same-sex Marriage—and Marriage,” available at http://www.centerforinquiry.net/advocacy.

At present, same-sex couples are essentially second-class citizens, even in Massachusetts where they can legally marry. Their marriages or civil unions do not apply outside the boundaries of the state and not on the federal level because of the Defense of Marriage Act passed in 2004.

The position paper refutes objections to same-sex marriage such as the argument that marriage is intended for procreation, that same-sex relationships are inherently unstable, and that same-sex marriage threatens marriage. None of these arguments is supportable, but heterosexual marriage is undergoing change in a different direction. In 2000, 9.7 million people in the U.S. were living with an unmarried partner, for various reasons, including objections to the roles that traditional marriage imposes, especially on women.

The Center for Inquiry would like to see the legal, social, and economic benefits of marriage apply automatically to all couples, without the historical baggage associated with the name “marriage.” All unions would be civil unions, leaving marriage as an option for those who would like additional ceremony or religious sanction.

“Same-sex marriage—and marriage” is one of a series of position papers on current political and social issues published on the web by the Center for Inquiry, which is an international organization committed to science, reason, and free inquiry. It has Centers and Communities throughout the U.S. and the world and has an Office of Public Policy in Washington D.C. http://www.centerforinquiry.net

The full position paper can be found on CFI’s hompage.


1. Rachel - April 18, 2008

What about the other second class citizens: singles? Marriage does automatically come with a large set of “legal, social, and economic benefits,” yet bestowing those on people simply because they’ve “tied the knot” is part of the historical baggage that comes with marriage that might be appropriate to leave behind. There are other relationships, such as with close friends or among siblings, that might warrant equal standing for the rights of those benefits.

I urge CFI not to simply jump onto the marriage bandwagon. The current institution excludes same-sex couples, which clearly is discriminatory. Yet, we need to go beyond questioning that to asking why marriage/civil unions should get automatic rights. I would second Michael LaSala’s call for a “critical view of the privileges of marriage.” (Michael C. LaSala: Too Many Eggs in the Wrong Basket: A Queer Critique of the Same-Sex Marriage Movement. SocialWork. Volume 52, Number 2. April 2007.). He calls on us to “advocate for freedom of sexual expression as well as economic and legal equity for all, regardless of marital status, relationship style, or sexual orientation.” It would be great if CFI were to heed that call.

2. homostoicus - April 18, 2008

Why couples? What about other tuples? N+1 at a time?

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