After a brief hibernation, the issue of homosexual marriage is reemerging into prominent public debate. Last month, New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine announced that he would seek to allow official marriages for same-sex couples in his state, replacing the current policy of civil unions. These unions, meant to be equivalent to marriage in all but the name, have fallen short of expectations: Employers that afford benefits to married couples have continued to deny them to civil union partners.
Roughly two-thirds of New Jersey residents would like to see the civil union policy replaced by full marriage equality. But Corzine has prudently decided to wait until after the coming presidential election to push for the new measure, recalling how the 2004 promulgation of gay marriage in Massachusetts helped mobilize right-wing sentiment and re-elect George W. Bush. For some, this isn't fast enough. Gay rights groups that have criticized the shortcomings of civil unions are eager to rectify a statute that has placed a significant burden on the gay community. But moving ahead on this initiative before November 4 would be courting disaster for all progressive goals.
This same argument is going on in all of the states that have had some form of marriage equality. Once people see that their GLBT neighbors are good people of their own right there is little reason to have a second class form of marriage. Civil Unions may be well intended, but they protect nothing and only serve to undermine equality. If all the rights are truly the same where is the need for a different name to call it by? We can only hope that good people don't allow themselves to be fooled by other people who wish to continue our bigoted and insensitive ways. We need change in order to grow. Being cautious of changes is healthy, but being so cautious that you attempt to write your beliefs into a constitution so that it would be more difficult for future generations to make their own laws is irresponsible.