Finally, some good news from a statewide election. According to the Associated Press, Washington State appears to have approved an expansion of the Domestic Partnership benefits offered to lesbian, gay, and some straight couples.
It seems that just over half the people in the northwestern state believe that, as long as LGBT people aren't asking for "marriage", then they're OK with granting us all the rights and privileges thereof. I'm glad they see it that way. I'm glad that they believe people such as myself, when we enter into a relationship and begin building a life together, should be afforded such benefits as a married straight couple.
Just don't call it "marriage". Because then--what--we'd have something "more"?
I find the whole "marriage" business a very strange and peculiar hot potato. I really do not understand the reluctance of the straight community to share this word with the gay community. Oh, yes: people have tried to explain it to me. I have heard that its because of "the church" or "religion" or "chrisitians" (that last one should be said as if hissing). But in Maine, as is the case in most of New England, that vote can NOT be hung purely around the necks of bigoted "christians" because, unlike in the South, the church doesn't hold as much sway over the hearts and minds of people. And, to be fair, there were religious leaders... including the Episcopal Bishop of Maine and many American Baptist ministers... who were encouraging people to vote No on Question One.
But back to this hang up about "marriage". I find that the possessiveness of straight people about this word is only matched by their unwillingness to accept that if "traditional marriage" is SO important, then we should go back to the "traditional laws" about divorce. Namely, make it extremely hard to break out of a bad marriage. Suggest to a straight person that we should eliminate divorce and require these "traditionally married" couples to live "happily ever after dammit", and you'll watch the beads of sweat form on their brow and lots of excuses for why we need to have divorce. How many priests and preachers, when confronted with the words about divorce as uttered by Christ, prefer to steer their sermons toward the Old or New Testament reading instead? I guess "divorce" is an equally hot potato as "marriage". Perhaps because divorce is a sign that not all "traditional marriages" work out?
Furthermore, if the Church (or synagogue or temple or mosque) is the reason that straight people can't stand the idea of LGBT people getting "traditionally married", then I wonder why when straight people get divorced they don't have to return to their place of worship and renounce the vows they've taken before God and their friends and family? If the priest (or other religious official) can sign the state papers to marry a couple, why should we not require them to sign the state papers to divorce said couple? And, if that religious official is unavailable, make another one do it instead.
What? NO!? Separation of church and state, you scream? Exactly my point.
I do not know what churches or other religious institutions gain by performing the act of signing the state papers making a couple legally married. But I believe this cross-over into a state function has done a terrible disservice to the straight members of the population. Because straight people seem to believe that marriage, the civil right, is tied into marriage, the sacramental rite. And, bless their hearts, the religious leaders in this country have done nothing to clarify this issue. And, in some corners, have used this confusion to their wicked ends of making LGBT people second-class citizens.
My answer: those who have the power to join together, through God, a couple whom no one should put asunder should stop their participation in the state-side of marriage. No more slinking off to sign the certificate with the love birds and a couple of witnesses. Make it clear that all you really have the power to do is bless the union. But for the purposes of the couple being REALLY married, in the eyes of the law, they must seek out the services of a clerk of court, an attorney, or a notary public (i.e. Me, the one not allowed to get married in Florida).
Some Episcopal churches, and individual priests and religious leaders, have gotten out of the marriage "business". They might bless a couple's union, but they direct the couple to go to the state for the actual signing of a marriage certificate. I believe this is the way, perhaps the most helpful way, for the church to lead on a very painful topic within the LGBT community.
My congratulations to the voters in the state of Washington for conferring on your LGBT brothers and sisters "everything but marriage." Perhaps, one day, you'll be able to take the next step... with God and the Church's help.