Unions preserve marriage concept

Monday, December 8, 2003

The Dallas Morning News

Put aside for a moment, the word marriage from the phrase same-sex marriage. Then substitute the word union. What you have is same-sex union, the implication of a recognized civil contract that protects the legal rights of same-sex partners. What you also have is the preservation of the concept of marriage, a term that carries long-standing religious and cultural significance and that should remain that way for heterosexual couples.

The Massachusetts Supreme Court, unfortunately, didn't make this distinction in its ruling last week. Still, we believe the court, in declaring unconstitutional a state ban on same-sex marriages, moved the debate forward by recognizing an important modern reality that there are many gay couples in enduring relationships and these couples have limited legal rights and protections. ...

Last week's case sets the stage for Massachusetts lawmakers to enact legislation that affords same-sex couples the same legal rights as heterosexual couples. Our own belief is that the legislature should restrict its action to the legal rights of same-sex unions, rather than injecting itself into issues of religious and sacramental significance, but legal experts disagree whether the ruling allows this distinction. ...

Vermont's civil unions provide couples with many of the benefits of marriage without calling it marriage or getting involved in sacramental relationships. That may be the best solution. But neither the Massachusetts nor the Vermont case is the final word on same-sex unions. Several states have defense-of-marriage statutes that ban gay marriages. The federal courts may ultimately have to resolve this issue. What's important is finding a way to protect the sanctity of marriage, while assuring that gay couples have the same secular rights as heterosexual couples.

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