Let's pass civil unions and move on

Arts and CultureMarriageFamilySocial IssuesJobs and WorkplaceSame-Sex MarriageJulian Bond

Last year as the state legislature debated same-sex marriage legislation, gay and lesbian couples and their supporters attacked opponents as extremists and bigots (as in The Sun's Feb. 20 article "Some Catholics support gay marriage," and Julian Bond's letter to the editor of Feb. 22). As the legislature begins to renew the debate, recent attacks on opponents were softened to "cowards." Articles on same-sex marriage frequently stir emotions and incorrectly portray the debate as either a religious or a discrimination issue. It is neither. The debate is one of challenging Webster's New World Dictionary definition of marriage as being the "relation between a man and a woman who have become husband and wife." Societies, nations, and ethnic groups throughout the world and over periods of centuries have essentially followed that definition. I am not aware of any society in the history of the world that survived by advocating same-sex marriages while demeaning traditional marriages.

Contemporary societies widely accept and accommodate gay and lesbian relationships. Laws within the United States have changed to recognize same-sex civil unions and grant legal rights regarding health care facility visitation, tax rights and health care decision-making. In lieu of attacking advocates of traditional marriage, I urge same-sex couples to embrace the term "civil union." Perhaps this matter can be resolved by enacting a law that declares couples in same-sex civil unions have the appropriate rights and protections granted to those in traditional marriages.

Civil union and traditional marriage relationships are obviously not the same. The word marriage must be exclusively reserved to describe the unique commitment between a man and a woman. The traditional, basic family unit — a marriage between a man and a woman — is the fundamental building block of human society. It is the only relationship capable of bringing a baby into the world. Hence, ancient civilizations and modern governments recognized, honored, protected and promoted the sanctity of traditional marriage.

If the term marriage is politically redefined as "a loving, life-long commitment between humans," will we become gender-blind and redefine the words husband, wife, mother, and father? Will designated days to honor mothers and fathers be changed to Parents Day? Will all governmental and business forms be revised to replace the terms mother and father with parent #1 and parent #2?

Individuals enter into same-sex relationships on their own free will. As is the case with any decision, they should take responsibility for the outcomes of their actions without expecting the vast majority of society to redefine its norms, values, customs and cultural traditions. I urge the legislators to quickly kill the same-sex marriage bill and take action on critical matters affecting the state — jobs, education, taxes and the growing budget.

Jerry Rodkey, Ellicott City

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