Monday, February 4, 2008

"To me, this is not any different from marriage"

Well, it's official now. The state of Oregon now allows homosexual 'domestic partnerships,' affording to same-sex couples the same legal benefits given to traditional married couples.
U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman, a supposedly conservative judge, lifted the judicial stay on enforcement of the law passed by the Oregon State Legislature that was originally to go into effect this past January.

From the Wikipedia page linked above:
Like California, Oregon's legislation has no ceremony requirement. All marriage and civil union legislation require a ceremony, whether religious or civil, to be considered valid. In California and Oregon couples are only required to register their domestic partnerships through the submission of a paper form. Additionally, the Oregon statute contemplates that the domestic partnerships are only valid in the state of Oregon. All other marriage and civil union laws assume the validity of such relationships in every other jurisdiction. These changes may have been placed to avoid any conflict with the Oregon constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
Clearly this legislation doesn't violate the letter of the same-sex marriage ban in the Oregon constitution, but I think it would be difficult to argue it doesn't violate the spirit of it. I don't know how this law can really be pleasing to either side of the debate, as to conservatives and traditionalists it represents a poor-man's version of gay marriage, while for gay rights activists it should represent....a poor-man's version of gay marriage.

The only requirement for obtaining a legal 'domestic partnership' is that the couple must fill out a form and file it with a County Clerk, kind of like going to the DMV, or filing your taxes--you know, those other mundane things the government makes you do.

For gay rights activists, who like to claim that there is no qualitative difference between heterosexual and homosexual relationships, this should be an absurdity. The 'partnership' has been designed to confer the rights of married couples onto homosexual couples, but in a watered-down version, sort of the gay-rights equivalent of "separate-but-equal," if you will. If I were a gay-rights activist, I would settle for nothing less than full legal recognition of homosexual marriage. Anything less would seem like a condescending 'gift' from the legislature: "Sure, you can get a domestic partnership, but you'll never be able to receive full marriage benefits." If homosexual and heterosexual relationships are interchangeable and do not differ (which, of course, is not true), then it is essentially discrimination to offer gay couples anything less than marriage.

As one article points out, this domestic partnership law creates inequality. Though it claims to create something different from marriage, heterosexual couples are not allowed to enter into a domestic partnership, they can only be married (I would imagine that members of the same family are not allowed to be domestic partners either). This puts Oregon in the awkward position of creating marriage laws based only on who people are having sex with, which is especially problematic since American culture since the 1960s has been trying to prove that who we have sex with doesn't matter at all.

My girlfriend's brother once made the point that if he and his brother lived together, combined their incomes, and then sought the legal benefits of marriage (or 'domestic partnership'), they would be denied, even though as brothers they would likely be more committed to supporting each other than most other couples (gay or straight). This example reinforces the point that these laws are merely vehicles for 'normalizing' homosexuality. Some may try to say there is a difference between marriage and civil unions, or marriage and domestic partnerships. Ultimately, however, the question comes down to: are homosexual relationships the same as heterosexual ones? If they are the same, as gay-rights activists claim, then I have a hard time seeing how the legal benefits of marriage could be denied to anybody: two men, two women, three men and two women, two brothers, a fraternity, a man and his dog, etcetera etcetera ad nauseum.

Exit question: Is this the future of Oregon? Man's best friend, indeed.

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