Congress would bestow the status of federal civil unions on same-sex marriages and civil unions granted at the state level, thereby conferring upon them most or all of the federal benefits and rights of marriage. But there would be a condition: Washington would recognize only those unions licensed in states with robust religious-conscience exceptions, which provide that religious organizations need not recognize same-sex unions against their will. The federal government would also enact religious-conscience protections of its own. All of these changes would be enacted in the same bill.
So, instead of fighting against religion-based discrimination, let’s validate it by accepting it through secular law.
In support of their idea, the authors suggest that similar exemptions already exist for Catholic hospitals regarding abortion. I have a problem with that, too: Why should a hospital (or a church) be exempt from following the law? “Religious freedom” doesn’t cut it. Religious freedom means that you and I are free to choose whatever religion we’d like. It should not give us the freedom to break the law! Now, with abortion, I suppose you could argue, it’s a service and not every hospital would have to offer every service imaginable. I can buy that. Maybe they don’t offer plastic surgery either. Plus, abortion is a complicated ethical issue, which same-sex marriage/civil unions are not, so I don’t think it’s comparable. (Sorry, if you think gays are not human, that’s not an ethical issue, that’s religion-based discrimination. Abortion ends the potential of a human life, that makes it an ethical issue, which is argued very convincingly in Lake of Fire.)
Not recognizing a particular union seems just absurd. What if a church has something against interracial marriages? Should they have the religious freedom to not recognize those? Of course not. So why should same-sex unions be any different?
Of course, the overarching issue is that neither marriage nor civil unions will end discrimination based on relationship status. As Nicky Grist from AtMP argues so eloquently in her rebuttal to the NYT op-ed:
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 status.
Neither same-sex marriage nor civil unions address the underlying inequality: That between the married/unioned and the unmarried/ununioned. Only when couples – whether married or unioned – no longer receive rights, privileges, and benefits that single people don’t get will we have achieved equality for all.