Pre-Law Student Suggests State Of California Divorce Marriage Licensing
Language matters. When you call a gigantic pork sandwich a “stimulus”, it becomes a very difficult thing to oppose. When your version of “campaign finance reform” is a big slap in the face of free speech and only increases the ability for moneyed interests to protect their incumbent investments, it is still seen by the majority of Americans as a positive “reform”.
Marriage is a religious concept. Contract is a state concept. To give the name “marriage” to what you get from a church and simultaneously define it as a civil contract, you open the door to very bitter disputes. Few but the extreme bigots in society would suggest that gays not be allowed to enter into civil contracts. But as we saw here in California last year, a majority said they shouldn’t get married. I’ve said that we should do away with civil “marriage” entirely, and use a different term to reduce double meaning.
Two students from SoCal agree, and they’ve decided to do something about it:
Ali Shams, a senior at the University of California-San Diego, was watching a soccer game with a bunch of buddies when his phone started ringing Tuesday, and refused to stop.
Surprising even the 22-year-old pre-law student, his personal project during Christmas break — framing a constitutional amendment initiative to replace the word “marriage” with “domestic partnership” under state law — was cleared by Secretary of State Debra Bowen to gather petition signatures for a potential statewide ballot.
Fox News, NBC, The Associated Press and many of the state’s largest newspapers were on the phone wanting to discuss the unusual initiative launched by Shams and his friend Kaelan Housewright, a 21-year-old senior at the California Institute of the Arts. More to the point was Queerty.com, a gay issues blog which marveled: “Straight Dudes File California Gay Marriage Ballot Initiative.”
The measure would overturn Proposition 8’s ban on same-sex marriage, and have California treat all unions — opposite-sex or same-sex — as domestic partnerships. It would also allow churches, synagogues and mosques to decide whom they want to marry in a social, rather than civil, ceremony.
The domestic partnership initiative might be an extreme long shot to pass — or even make it to the ballot. In what may be a first, the warring sides in the Proposition 8 campaign agree on something — they both hate the idea.
That’s always good. When two bitter rivals are presented with a way to stop fighting, they often hate the idea. Perhaps they’ll come around. It’s difficult to accept the idea that this dispute is largely over a single word rather than a much more important concept, but language matters.
What does this accomplish to truly end this dispute?
“We’re not banning marriage. We’re protecting fundamental rights for minorities and protecting the religious definition of marriage for” religious groups, Shams said.
As I’ve said before, those who are truly concerned about the sanctity of marriage should keep it in church, where it belongs. Let the legal system do what it is designed to do, arbitrate and enforce contracts. Once separated, the issue becomes much easier to argue — and you can see the motives of those for and those against much more clearly.
This, of course, doesn’t mean I think this will pass — but I hope it gets discussed enough to open a few minds.