Sunday, July 03, 2005

The Spanish Enlightenment

Ever since the issue of whether the word 'marriage' should be extended to include gay people who want their relationships recognized by the state, I had not been one to obsess about whether those relationships should be called 'marriages' or 'civil unions.' I couldn't understand the obsession of some who insisted it be called 'marriage' and nothing but 'marriage' would be acceptable. I admit now I was ignorant. I was ignorant because I understood neither the facts nor the law. Even lawyers like me can be ignorant....sometimes!!

The cogent reason why many gay people want the relationship to be called 'marriage' is that calling it anything else would automatically relegate it to an inferior status in society. For example, I understand that upon marriage as currently defined, 1,138 federal laws offering protections, rights and duties come into being automatically (as well as over 100 state laws) and that, moreover, these protections, rights and duties are NOT automatic upon registering a civil union with the state, whether that union is a homosexual or heterosexual one. Indeed, foes of gay people having the right to enjoy legalized relationships argue that there is no need for us to seek marriage, that we enjoy the same privileges as husbands and wives (such as transfer of property and health benefits, etc.) upon one of the marriage partner's demise. However, this is a devious lie. These foes conveniently obfuscate the legal reality that the privileges and rights are NOT granted automatically upon the union's coming into existence and gay (and straight, it must also be remembered) people are forced to pay additional death taxes on the transfer of the property and expend large sums of money to assert their rights. And another insidious lie that our foes try to spread in relation to the marriage debate is that gay people are anti-family. Let me state categorically this is untrue. We love our families. We love family life. We are an integral part of our families. Therefore, stop spreading lies and falsehoods, and stop trying to incite hatred.

I am thus delighted that the Spanish parliament--despite vociferous opposition by a group of conservatives called the Family Forum, a group aided greatly by the Catholic Church whose power is on the wan there--by a majority of 187 to 147, decided to extend the institution of marriage to its gay citizenry. They did so by annexing one sentence to the legal definition of marriage under Spanish law.
"Marriage will have the same requirements and results when the two people entering into the contract are of the same sex or of different sexes."

Spain is truly an enlightened land in this issue. So too is Belgium and Holland, and soon so will Canada. Even jolly old England that spawed 'The Margaret' (or should I state "cultivated" since her parents were Finchley greengrocers--"get you fruit and veg' here, best London fruit and veg' here") is giving legal recognition to gay relationships. This is not a question of gays acquiring rights to which they're not entitled, or of gays receiving preferential treatment. Seventy percent (70%) of the Spanish population favored giving the right to marry on equal terms to gay people. To the Spanish populace, it is a question of justice and equality under the law. And I believe justice is like a slow moving river. Whether foes of gay people like it or not, the right to marry and achieve equality under the law will come to the shores of these United States.

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Jen D said...

Thank you for your well written comments! As a long time fan of Spain (having studied abroad there in college) I too rejoiced to hear of their recent decision!

gayle said...

Thank you so much for this, Damian! Let's hope sanity spreads to the US soon. I really appreciate how you pointed out the misconception that gay people are anti-family--this is such a ridiculous belief! And so many conservatives have co-opted the word "family"--just look at the names of organizations like Focus on the Family, and the Spanish group you mentioned, Family Forum. As if they are the only people who can define and defend the family unit. So frustrating. Thanks again for your great commentary!

Damian McNicholl said...

Thank you for your comments, Jen and Gayle. Thinking gay people are anti-family is ridiculous, absolutely. And the word 'family' belongs to all of us.

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