Can Marriage Equality Be Compromised?

Three key people immersed in different aspects of the marriage-equality effort weigh in on a New York Times op-ed attempting to forge a compromise on how the federal government handles same-sex unions.

BY Michelle Garcia

February 27 2009 1:00 AM ET


Nicky Grist, executive director of the Alternatives to
Marriage Project

Obviously, this
compromise won't satisfy anyone who wants full social
equality regardless of sexual orientation. Nor should it
satisfy people who prioritize practicalities, such as taxation
and access to health care. Marriage-equality campaigns shine a
much-needed spotlight on the injustices caused by treating
married and unmarried relationships differently. But it is
wrong to think that same-sex marriage or civil union will solve
these problems.

Let's assume that,
after an initial rush of civil unions fulfill the pent-up
demand among same-sex couples, the rate of union and divorce
becomes the same for all couples regardless of gender (for
ease, let's use the verb "union" to include all
government-certified civil unions and marriages). Eventually,
there will still be about as many un-unioned as unioned
households in the United States, there will still be over 90
million un-unioned adults, and about one or two in every 10
un-unioned individuals will still be cohabiting with an
intimate partner with whom, for a variety of reasons, they
haven't unioned.

At that point, will it
be any more fair that unioning raises or lowers your taxes?
Will it be OK that people must union or divorce, or can't
union, in order to get affordable health care? Will any more
people exercise their rights around medical decision-making?
Will there be any fewer green-card unions? Will judges know how
to help un-unioned families divide their property after a
breakup? Will caretakers who aren't unioned to their
dependents get any relief? Will surviving dependents have any
more access to benefits if they weren't unioned to their
deceased providers? Will health clubs, travel agents, and
employers stop basing rates and rewards on union status? Will
parents let un-unioned partners share bedrooms?

No. This compromise
should not satisfy anyone who is looking forward to the end of
discrimination on the basis of marital or relationship