Let the voters in on your political semantics

Upon first read of this editorial (Stop pretending that voters have spoken on civil unions) I just had to say, I agree, but isn’t it obvious? Well, perhaps it should be. But it is as obvious as it was to all of us that balked at the proponents of Measure 36 who argued so strongly that this only applied to marriage and not civil unions or other rights and benefits. Now that the Measure has passed suddenly it is about CUs. And we saw that coming. But it was a convincing argument for many Oregonians.

There is something magical, ok, religious, (is this not the same thing?) about the untouchable word “marriage.” More than anything it seems opponents of gay marriage are working harder and harder to protect this ridiculous English morpheme. Because I don’t believe most Oregonians, or most Americans for that matter, really do hate all gay people, nor want to deny them the right to live as equal citizens. (My girlfriend’s Catholic mother LOVES this little sinner, though she would deny me my rights in a second). But this word does get in the way. For many it is about religious doctrine, though I’m sure the word for marriage has changed language and exact meaning in 2 or 4000 years. And I would be happy to divorce myself from that as a gay person wishing to engage in a secular contract. But as we saw in the 50s, “separate but equal” has just never worked. Perhaps we can redefine the word marriage to mean only the religious union and use civil unions (or another term) for all legal marriages. Because religious queers can and have been fighting their own battles within their churches and those ongoing discussions are something to be completely worked out in that context. But the law should be fair.

So, yes, let the voters decide the semantics, seeing as that is better than government shaping the nature of language and belief for us. But understand, also, that in many ways, that is all we’re arguing about.

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