Civil unions have the exact same benefits as marriage in the majority of cases.
First, short of a national policy, what we have are a patchwork of state laws that don't always get along. As I understand it, California does not have civil unions. It has domestic partnerships. These are more precisely a third tier of recognition, below marriage and below civil unions. They do not confer "the exact same benefits" as either. Or if this is correct... Where they do now, it's becasuse they have become umm, marriage? http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?tabid=16430
Same Sex Marriage, Civil Unions and Domestic Partnerships
Last Update: April, 2010
Quick facts on key states:
Issues marriage licenses to same-sex couples: Massachusetts, Connecticut, California*, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, District of Columbia
Recognizes same-sex marriages from other states: Rhode Island, New York, Maryland
Allows civil unions, providing state-level spousal rights to same-sex couples: New Jersey (Note: In Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire, same sex marriage has replaced civil unions.)
Statewide law provides nearly all state-level spousal rights to unmarried couples (Domestic Partnerships): California, Oregon, Nevada, Washington
Statewide law provides some state-level spousal rights to unmarried couples (Domestic Partnerships): Hawaii, Maine, District of Columbia, Wisconsin
* The California Supreme Court ruled on May 15, 2008 that same sex couples have the right to marry in California. Proposition 8, which limits marriage to one man and one woman, was passed on November 4, 2008. The decision was appealed...
I haven't found a comprehensive table comparing California benefits for this year yet... However, at least one is still not there yet: The California Senate is currently working on AB2055, a bill that would allow same-sex couples to gain unemployment benefits when they were about to formalize a partnership -- like those other couples already can. This was introduced as late as February 2010. http://info.sen.ca.gov/pub/09-10/bill/asm/ab_2051-2100/ab_2055_bill_20100413_amended_asm_v98.html http://www.eqca.org/site/pp.asp?c=kuLRJ9MRKrH&b=5828269
Jude, I think you mentioned Martin Luther King as an example of someone who spoke for his cause to persuade people? He did some speaking, yes. He also did a fair amount of shouting. He marched on Washington. He ended up getting killed. He set a ball rolling that changed the atmosphere of debate so much that fewer people who dislike what he accomplished, dare say so openly. We've come to a place where although some people continue fuming and whispering, it's widely recognized that this is probably a better place. For all I know, you might see the fact that some people still resist that as proof that it came too soon; I don't know. I'll take it over the status quo, because I don't see a whole lot of give and take if people had not taken risks.
I do notice a kind of historical back and forth. When the country stops policing race tightly, it seems to police gender more in ways. When slavery ended and then the US moved into increasingly diverse Western areas, White women were warned constantly about the "uncontrollable sexual urges" of the Blacks, Chinese, and Hawaiians. After the civil rights movement, we are having this wave of reactionary rhetoric about first "masculinist women" who dare to play with leather, and again gay people who allegedly 'threaten' "family" values. What next? Maybe race again? It goes round and around. The Republicans hiss whether they're winning ("defense of family/marriage") or losing ("activism and animal marriages"). Nothing new there, either. I don't see the quiet persuasion bringing us to a better place, without policy choices to back it up. A policy choice may not be forever (no matter whether it's made in the name of democracy, republic, or law), but I'd rather have a fair one.
In the cases of both race and sexual orientation, those most in favor of the status quo are not using rational argument. Perhaps we can partly thank our visionaries, including Dr. King, that the atmosphere is at least not ripe for them to harp on what they stand to lose materially (just for one example, an edge in those California unemployment benefits). They reduced themselves to fussing about lost pride when the Proposition only denied
pride of place to their opponents. In such an atmosphere, they had to explain what the state
, not they, would gain from enforcing a separate language. One thing that the court judgment did fairly well, is to point out that arguments presented in support of Proposition 8 involved dramatic claims about "difference" and "nature" but Proposition 8 did not invite voters to stand up behind any such discrimination. The science that we have doesn't support such bases, either.
The discriminatory, moralizing rhetoric may connect somewhat with the populist lowest common denominator, as you like (although I suspect the economy and even the war(s) are much more important). A reasonable judge, like other setters of policy, can't always wait for the populace to survey just so. In the meantime, the issue goes on playing and that level of government goes on dealing/paying with the effects too. The evidence suggests same-sex couples are doing roughly similar to other couples. So yes, until/unless we wake up and undo privilege for couples period. I would probably agree we should... I'm not sure it links up with the rest of your argument here... The case didn't challenge the doctrine of singular marriage itself -- now that
would have taken some activism.