Let's Get Civil About Marriage Equality

Words matter. Being accurate in our language and tempering our rhetoric must be the first step in any discussion on marriage, especially marriage equality for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

In the spirit of celebrating love, let’s at least agree to be civil about the topic of marriage, and to say precisely what we mean.

By “civil,” that is to say relating to the state and its citizens; courteous and polite; and relating to private rights, remedies, activities, needs or affairs of a civic nature, as distinguished from military, religious or criminal affairs. 

And, by “marriage,” I am writing about the state of being united to a person in a consensual and contractual relation, recognized by law.

With these working definitions, objecting to marriage equality because it violates a person’s religious or congregation’s rights of free worship is a bogus argument. Civil marriage and religious matrimony are neither synonymous nor incompatible.

Civility requires equality; equality begets economic, societal, and individual family stability. Who would be against this?

Our economy is strongest when people save, invest, buy homes, and start businesses.  Marriage equality safeguards rights of inheritance and property ownership. Families that are secure in their ability to plan long-term and will their estates to those they love without punitive tax burdens or probate processes are more likely to become homeowners, entrepreneurs, and investors in our communities. Who would be against this?

Families are most secure when the legal relationships and bonds between members are recognized and respected by the State.  Marriage equality leads to healthier families, more people covered by insurance, stronger and stable parent-child relationships, more two-parent households.  Even the National Organization for Marriage – a strong opponent of marriage equality – acknowledges that “marriage reduces the risk of poverty for children and communities…and protects children’s physical and mental health,…[and] both men and women who marry live longer, healthier, and happier lives.”  Who would be against this?

Here we have it. Love, economic security, stronger families and stronger communities. Marriage equality imparts the most fundamental and honored principles of our natural heritage. It affirms that all people have certain rights. It acknowledges that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are enumerated to all of us as residents of America, and it shines a spotlight on the fact that life and liberty cannot be enjoyed, and happiness cannot be pursued, while any person is persecuted or discriminated against on the basis of his or her inherent nature.

Let’s get civil. Let’s pass marriage equality for all of us to live and prosper. Who would be against this? 

Published February 14, 2013