The word marriage would be hijacked

Dear A. M. Costa Rica:

Your Wednesday, April 29, article titled ” High court justices grill lawyers on gay marriage” merits some calm thinking and comment.

There is no denying that marriage, in its traditional meaning, is a union and commitment between a man and a women. It has a religious and biological in addition to a social aspect and this goes from primitive tribes where the medicine man performed the ceremony to the priest, pastor, minister, rabbi, monk, etc. who does the ceremony. As a matter of fact, marriage is one of the seven sacraments in the Christian faith. Maybe now you understand why they fight so hard to retain the sanctity of marriage.

Of course, not all heterosexual unions are conducted in a religious setting. Those that are not are termed civil marriages where the union is formalized by way of registering the union in what is commonly referred to in Canada as city hall. Civil marriage is recognized in every way the same as a religious marriage, enjoying the same legal protection under the law and responsibility to each partner. The two terms signifies the difference in the setting while recognizing the heterosexual nature of the union. Hence the word marriage remains constant.

Now we have a new group requesting recognition of their same-sex union. Their request is easily understood. It was reported that Mary Bonauto, representing same-sex couples in four states where gay unions are not recognized, repeatedly cited the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing equal protection under the law. There is no arguments here. It is also true that gays and lesbians have the right to solidify their commitment to each other publicly or privately as they so choose. Mary Bonauto is correct in this point. However her argument ends here.

While two gays or two lesbians are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution to be free to commit themselves to each other, the same Constitution does not guarantee that their commitment to each other, the union of these two same sex persons, be conferred the term marriage. The term marriage has been for millennia referred to and reserved for a union and commitment between a man and a women. Yes, the Constitution guarantees that two persons of the same sex cannot be banned for making a commitment to each other but stops short in guaranteeing this commitment be called a marriage.

Mary Bonauto was also reported as saying that denying marriage to gays and lesbians condemns them to second-class status in America. I have not personally come across any such representation except perhaps what is in the gays’ and lesbians’ own mind. This is their way of highjacking the argument and shaping the discussion to what it is not. What better way to put the other side in a debate on the defensive than by accusing him/her of trying to make gays and lesbians second-class citizen. The same tactic is used daily by calling the opponent is a racist. Then the opponent goes to defend himself/herself and forgot the real issue at hand.

The term civil union has been in used for same sex commitments to each other in the media, and I think it is time to formalize this term. I think it is important that two same-sex person in a civil union be guaranteed the same right and protection under the law as heterosexual unions, and this should include but not limited to social benefits.

I hope gays and lesbians are not suggesting that same-sex unions are identical to a heterosexual one, and let us not forget that not being the same does not mean that one is therefore better or worse than the other as Mary Bonauto suggested.

For years women fought for equal right, equal pay, equal everything to a man, but women never fought to be called a man. Women and men are different, but they are equal under the law, and they wanted to be seen and treated as equals. They are not the same. They are different but equal, equal as in one not being superior and the other inferior, not one being first-class citizen and the other second-class citizen. Anything else would only muddy the water, confuse the issue and side track the argument.

Gay and lesbians want to be recognized as equals, having equal protection from the law and equal rights as heterosexual unions and, most of all, not be discriminated. I support them in their endeavor. However this can be achieved without taking away the historical term marriage from heterosexual unions.  Highjacking the term marriage by highjacking the argument (second-class citizen) will only invite a protracted fight especially from the religious fractions of society (indeed the religious fractions of humanity) and delay the recognition and protection gays and lesbians profess to fight for.

Dennis Jay
formerly of Alajuela.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Costa Rican lawmakers are considering a proposal for a civil union law.

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