A Moderate Path on Same-Sex Marriage, Part II

Courtney! raised a crucial point in her comment on the last piece: Will this prove emotionally satisfying to those who have spent years imagining and planning their perfect wedding (rather than a perfect ‘civil union’)? I think yes, and here’s why:

When I got married (in California), my wife and I went to the county registrar to obtain a marriage license. We filled out some paperwork and took more with us to be signed at the wedding. Then we had a lovely ceremony in accord with our own cultural and religious customs. Afterwards we and other witnesses signed the paperwork and it was sent back to the county. Everything outside of the wedding ceremony was a formality with no particular emotional significance for us (but huge legal significance).

The temporal and physical gap between our visit to the county registrar and our actual marriage ceremony had little legal significance. As far as the government was concerned, our legal connection could have begun right then or after a predetermined waiting period. In a system of civil unions, couples could follow the very same legal steps with no additional impact on their own wedding plans.

Actually, there was one emotionally significant event that occurred when we went to the county registrar that day. Waiting in line in front of us was a same-sex couple. This was during a particularly charged moment in the fight over same-sex marriage in California and it appeared that the couple was there trying to establish grounds for a lawsuit by being denied the right to marry. I remember thinking at the time that the paperwork I was waiting to fill out and pick up could just as easily read “civil union license” as “marriage license.” It certainly wouldn’t have taken away anything from my bureaucratic experience or upcoming wedding. And it would have meant the world to the couple in line in front of us.

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