Over the past few weeks, an increasing number of US politicians and politicos have spoken out in support of same-sex marriage -” not civil unions, but marriage. Some of these include: former Republican Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno; George W. Bush’s former Solicitor General Ted Olson; Dick Cheney (yes, you heard right); and Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi.
Suozzi put the case for civil marriage. In last week’s New York Times, he wrote, When I ran in the Democratic primary for governor against Eliot Spitzer in 2006, I vocally supported civil unions for same-sex couples but did not endorse equal marriage. I understood the need to provide equal rights for gays and lesbians, but as a practicing Catholic, I felt that the state should not infringe on religious institutions’ right to view marriage in accordance with their own traditions. I thought civil unions for same-sex couples would address my concerns regarding both equality and religious liberty. I was wrong.
Suozzi now supports civil marriage for same-sex couples -” the concept would make it legal for same-sex couples to marry but that would not force religious institutions to bless such unions. He argues that civil unions, on the other hand, create a -˜separate and unequal’ system. And in a rebuttal to the argument that civil unions would provide equality so long as they were open to heterosexual couples too, he writes that, in reality, few heterosexual couples would give up their current civil marriage for a civil union.
Some Australian politicians have told me that if anything, civil unions would be much more palatable than same-sex marriage, and that the GLRL should be focussing our energies on something achievable in the short-term. I’m sure before 1967 in some parts of the United States, and before 1985 in South Africa, keeping the ban on interracial marriage was more palatable to some. Perhaps activists in the States and South Africa were told interracial couples could celebrate, but not publicly, not legally, and not equally.
As poll after poll has shown, the government needs to start listening to the public’s growing unwillingness to sustain inequality. And as a community, we need to start making that unwillingness known.
Emily Gray is co-convenor of the
NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby.