With dogmatic certainty, activists for gay civil unions assured everyone that it would cause no harm to traditional marriage.
Turns out to be a lot of bunk. What didn't get much attention leading up to the Illinois Legislature's passage of civil unions for gays was the fact that the law, if signed as it certainly will be by Gov. Pat Quinn, applies equally to heterosexual couples.
In other words, you don't have to get married to enjoy all the legal benefits of marriage. In other words, why get married at all?
There are some interesting things in the legislation, some of which have been ignored by much of the traditional media. That it applies equally to heterosexual couples is just one of them. You'll get the idea by reading the required fiscal and other "notes" required to be attached to new Illinois laws to assess their impact before they are passed.
The fiscal, pension and other notes forecast that the law will cost millions of dollars, in added public pension, administration, judicial and other costs. No one can really say how miuch because no one knows exactly how many civil unions will occur. That would include couples that move here to establish residency to become eligible for civil unions, or the number of gay couples "married" in other states (whose marriage Illinois' new law recognizes) move here.
This column first appeared in The Chicago Daily Observer.
When the state is circling the financial drain, this is just what we need--more spending and additional entitlements.
Undoubtedly, the bill's supporters consider any costs niggling when weighed against their central argument: "It's the right thing to do." And that anyone bringing up costs may well be camouflaging his homophobia.
Have it their way. But their argument that it would not hurt traditional marriage turns out not just to be wrong. One might imagine that it was designed to do just that. By including heterosexuals in the civil union bargain, marriage remains different or special in name only. Ironically, the folks who call marriage an anachronistic practice that we can do without are the same ones that demand that gays have a right to marriage, in name and in substance.
Including heterosexual partnerships in civil unions was a clever maneuver. It wipes out any substantive differences between marriage and civil unions by making the rights, responsibilities and privileges of civil unions identical to those provided under the state's Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act.
Give Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), the bill's chief sponsor credit for the maneuver, whether he was clever enough or not to pull this off by himself. For the record, he explained that he included heterosexual couples in the deal because, "It just seemed wrong to me to write a law that would be discriminatory." He wanted it to be "inclusive."
Believe it if you want. But the bill does discriminate, as does the marriage act, against civil unions between certain blood relatives. Why should it? Liberals have long contested the logic that the purpose of marriage was broad, in that it lays out the rules, privileges and rights involved in procreation, in the interests of parents and children, and in the interests of society. Obviously, the purpose of a civil union rarely would be procreation, so why should the state deny the right of partners who are blood relatives from having the same protections and rights as anyone else? Don't anyone point this out to Harris, or he might want to also include fathers and daughters in civil unions.
Arguments that marriage is an instrument for the orderly and just continuation of society and civilization are lost in these days of radical individualism.
To illustrate the point: The civil union legislation, as does existing marriage law, directly involves the state Public Health Department in the certification and recording keeping process. Why? Because at one time, the marriage application and licensing process provided health protections for individuals and society. The Public Health Department was involved because once upon a time, pre-marital testing for sexually transmitted diseases was required. Disclosure of such diseases to prospective spouses was considered a matter of transparency, justice and preventing the spread of contagious diseases.
No more. For a while, the state required pre-marital testing for the HIV virus, but that collided with politically correct whims that "privacy rights" trumped everyone else's rights as well as the public's interests. The Legislature threw out the HIV testing requirement and, to be "consistent," also killed any testing for any sexually transmitted diseases.
The debate over same-sex marriage and civil unions has taken a lot of twists and turns, but Illinois has added still more zigs and zags by including heterosexual unions. Few people would deny people the right to visit loved ones in the hospital, to share life-long responsibilities and other things sought by the gay community. There are ways to tweak the law to get it done legally, but why bring down marriage to do it?