On the heels of the passage of the long overdue law that allows same sex couples the right to legally marry in New York (a right and a law that should be federal in my opinion), l would like the right to a heterosexual civil union, a law that was recently passed in Illinois. Yes, I realize the right to a civil union was that for which same-sex couples were forced to settle, but from my perspective I see it as an appealing compromise between living together and marriage.
I like that it offers legal recognition of the partnership at least at the state level, and allows the partners to share certain benefits such as health care, retirement and some tax deductions. Also appealing is that upon dissolution, assets are not simply split fifty/fifty down the middle as in the case of divorce and community property, but divided according to who contributed what. During my divorce, I was forced to divide the equity in my house despite the fact that it was financed by my family money and the mortgage paid almost exclusively by me. That little piece of paper called a marriage certificate entitled my ex to half of the equity despite his lack of contribution and getting out of the marriage cost me a small fortune. It was the price of my freedom and well worth it, but if I had to do it again, I’d like the option of a civil union.
In France heterosexual civil unions were born due to ambiguous wording on a bill meant for same sex couples. Because the bill did not specifically indicate for whom it was intended, heterosexual couples began to take advantage of this option. That was back in 1999. Since then the proportion of heterosexual couples seeking civil unions in France has grown exponentially, outnumbering marriages three to one, and is sweeping other countries in Europe as well. Some younger couples use it as an interim step toward marriage, older couples who may be divorced or widowed opt for it as an alternative to remarrying, and still countless couples of all ages are simply choosing this as opposed to traditional marriage.
Friends of mine, both men and women, are polarized when this conversation topic arises. Those against such a union feel it is a cop-out and preparing for failure in advance by not fully committing to marriage. Some friends have shared that they would be insulted if their significant other proposed a domestic partnership versus marriage. But it’s just marriage-lite, say they. So what if it is? Say I. What’s wrong with that? Still, I and many others feel it is a perfectly valid alternative and has as much odds of success as any relationship, married or unmarried.
When children are involved it matters not whether a couple is wed as it is the legal and financial obligation of any parent to take responsibility for their children. Determining custodial arrangements, no matter whether the parents are the same sex or heterosexual, have a civil union or are married, may ultimately be decided by a judge.
I recognize and respect that same sex marriage was a hard-fought battle here in New York and is still being fought in many other states. As I already stated, it is my fervent belief that marriage should be available to all couples throughout the country and hopefully one day it will be. Illinois has passed a civil union law open to everyone and Hawaii and other states have bills on the table that would also support such unions.
Life is not black and white. People and relationships are not black and white. I’m all about love and romance but don’t feel the choices should be simply live together or marry. Civil unions should be available to all people, regardless of sexual orientation, the same as marriage laws should be.