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21.6.04

Gay Marriage In The Other Down Under

NZ Mulls 'Gay Marriage Bill'

New Zealand's civil union bill, dubbed the gay marriage bill by its critics because it allows same sex couples legal recognition of their relationships, was introduced in parliament yesterday.

... Asked if she would have rather had a civil union, [Prime Minister Helen] Clark said: "Yes, I would. Because that would appeal to me more but that's a matter of personal choice".


When you report that the Prime Minister of your country would rather be CUed* than married, it would help if you noted what the difference between the two is. So I dug around on the New Zealand Herald site and found this:

The only difference between a civil union and marriage was the name and that same-sex couples could not get married.


So what we're dealing with is a triumph of symbolism over substance. A lot of pro-same-sex marriage people seem to like this approach, at least from a pragmatic point of view. It allows you to give same-sex couples all the rights that they lack. But it also allows you to say "marriage is between a man and a woman" and "we're not redefining marriage." If I were a social conservative, I'd be insulted. It implies that I'm happy with word games, that all I really care about is the sanctity of the word "marriage."

I'd rather be honest with my opponents. I want the legal substance of marriage for same-sex couples, and I won't stoop to hand-waving about the sanctity of marriage in order to sneak it into law. If you want to treat same-sex couples as less deserving than opposite-sex ones in non-legal contexts, I'm sure you can tell the difference even if both relationships have the same legal name.

*Is the full form "Civil Unioned," or "Civilly United"? On the "it's 'RBIs,' not 'RsBI'" theory, which I disagree with but which seems to be standard, I suppose the former is proper.

**I want to avoid getting into the debate over what Marx really said. Marxist exegesis rivals the Biblical in contentiousness.

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