Gay Rights are Straight Rights

One fact that always seems to be overlooked in the debate over gay rights is that it actually impacts the rights of straight couples, too. Laws that reform the way we view couples to include gay rights- such as our own Civil Unions bill- have generally also extended new rights to straight couples. Not only can a straight couple now receive pretty much the same benefits as marriage without the heteronormal religious overtones, but de facto couples, regardless of sexuality, now have additional rights and protections that they were not afforded before because they are automatically considered equivalent to civil unions after a period of time.

Likewise- laws that protect “family values” tend to do the opposite- They aim to enshrine marriage as gender-specific, when it already is. They overextend themselves to taking away rights and protections from couples that are committed and may even have children, but aren’t married. Or they make adoption harder, don’t allow equal access to adopted kids, prevent co-adoption by unmarried couples, or make things even more difficult for single parents.

The other issue is that they often imply that marriage ought to be universal. Trying to imply that everyone ought to be happily married and popping out kids actually undermines marriage on its own- marriage is hard. It involves a very high level of commitment, compromise, and understanding from both partners. It involves choosing a good partner. In short, we should be encouraging good marriages, but that’s at odds with assuming everyone will get married. Because not everyone is ready for it. Some are, but they’ve not got a good partner. Some will never be ready for marriage. That’s part of why I feel that denying gay marriage is so wrong- when two people really do love each other well enough to spend their lives together, that’s so precious that it deserves celebrating no matter how weird you might find the people involved or the nature of their relationship.

The battle for gay civil rights is far from over in New Zealand, too. Right now there is no way for gay couples to legally adopt children, meaning that they have to resort to artificial insemination to become parents. That’s even ignoring gay marriage.

Personally speaking, I think gay marriage is inevitable, but I think enshrining it in the law is the wrong way to go. It would make far more sense to redefine marriage as a civil union with religious blessing, and then leave the fight over equal rights to the churches and other similar institutions themselves. Because really, most of the opposition seems to be in taking away the decision from religions. I agree they should have to make the decision. And I have confidence that eventually we’ll get them to make the right one, and that doing so will let us open our eyes to the reproductive and social rights we need to extend to everyone, straight or gay, couple or single.

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7 Responses

  1. This is interesting. Don’t hold your breath. It is absolutely crazy how many racist people there are in this country who don’t even realize that they are bigots. They think it is “common sense” that traditions should never change. God gave us all a brain, but very few people use them to think outside of current paradigms.

  2. Don’t hold my breath on what? Gay Marriage? I think that one is tricky and will take a lot of time.

    Gay adoption being legalised in New Zealand almost made it into the agenda this term, so if we get another Labour government after the election I think it’s likely to be law before the next one.

  3. I’m glad you addressed this. Marriage is a basic civil right that should be attainable by all people if they choose. For the truth about gay marriage check out our trailer. Produced to educate & defuse the controversy it has a way of opening closed minds & provides some sanity on the issue.

    <Ari: Please don’t link your own site in the body of your comment, even if it’s relevant to the post.>

  4. I agree that “Gay Rights are Straight Rights” all of the rights are designed to better life for marrying people who happen to be L.G.B.T. or Straight. We all need to get the marrige thing together and concentrate on the quality of life beyond “the ceremony”.

    <Ari: Please don’t link your own site in the body of your comment, even if it’s relevant to the post.>

  5. The day I need someone with a mental illness to approve my relationship is a very sad day indeed. When the government requires that approval we have a serious problem. I’m a big fan of the legal disconnect between marriage as a legal construct and marriage as a shared delusion.

    For me, marriage has not been an issue so far – I think it’s more child-related than couple-related. But liberalising it so that any group that wants to raise kids can get the legal protections of marriage would be a useful step. I think that will take time, so gay marriage is a step forward. I’d also like to see the flip side – give couples the ability to cohabit without sharing property. Currently that requires jumping through irritating legal hoops and hoping for the best (subject to legal challenge). I’d much like a “legal unmarriage”.

  6. I think legal unmarriages would be tricky- mainly because part of the reason for civil unions is to protect everyone from abusive relationships where people’s rights as part of the couple aren’t protected. I actually think it may be important that we keep people jumping through those hoops.

    As for extra protections- I’d like to see those built into civil unions if anything like my idea comes into being. If you’re going to make marriage a religious issue and leave it prone to discrimination, it stands to reason you can’t give people any legal advantage if they have it.

  7. I definitely agree with making marriage a purely religious thing. I’m inclined to think that any legal protections to registered partnerships should follow adoption law as much as partnership law. Specifically, you should be able to register as a dependent as well as a spouse, and children should be so registered by default at birth. That would give them rights over their guardian as well as vv.

    The problem is that the de facto marriage laws are specifically designed to take away rights on the assumption that people with more money are adults and those with less cannot possibly have ever made an independent decision. Why should the state require me to continue supporting someone after the relationship ends? WTF the presumption that by entering a temporary relationship I intend to share anything after that relationship is over?

    Thing is, I’m currently faced with having to kick my partner out of the house to protect myself from the law, despite them being theoretically an adult (they can vote, drink, commit crimes as an adult but apparently they’re not competent to choose a relationship). I’m sure my partner feels glad that the state is protecting her by making her live apart from me.

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