Last week I commented on the fact that same-sex marriage advocates face a dilemma – will they actually tell people what they believe marriage is and why they believe it. But Collegedale, Tennessee, just outside Chattanooga, voted last week to recognize same-sex marriages for certain purposes. Having now made that bold move, the four city council members who voted for recognition have some explaining to do, and that puts them on the horns of a dilemma. Are they going to do the right thing or just admit to the bigotry and intolerance their vote exposed?
The City of Collegedale voted last week to adopt a definition of “domestic partners” that BlueCross BlueShield makes available to its policyholders, if they so choose. That definition allows an unmarried employee of a business, or in this case, a city, to insure his or her “significant other” and the children for whom the partners are responsible.
The city could have said that any employee cohabitating with another person of the same or opposite sex whose relationship meets the definition of a “domestic partner” could have insurance that would cover the employee’s partner and their children. All that would be required would be that the two be in a loving and committed relationship. But it did not do so.
Instead, the city chose to recognize only those “domestic partnerships” where a same-sex marriage had been performed in a state like New York or Maryland that makes such marriages valid.
Apart from the fact that the city council members who voted for the resolution violated their oath to uphold the state’s constitution1, which forbids recognition of same-sex marriages, understand what else they did in recognizing only certain loving and committed relationships. And the best way to understand that is to put their action in the context of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s recent opinion in the marriage cases.
In speaking of the fact that the federal government wrongfully recognized only certain “moral and sexual choices” – heterosexual ones, Justice Kennedy said:
The differentiation [between same-sex marriages and natural marriages] demeans the [same-sex] couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects and whose relationship the State has sought to dignify. And it humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples. The law in question makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives.
Now what these four city council members really did becomes more plain. In choosing to give benefits to same-sex couples that are in a committed, loving relationship and not to give those same benefits to heterosexual couples who may have been cohabitating for years, these council members:
- Chose to “demean” unmarried heterosexual couples and their relationship, and
- “Humiliate” the children of unmarried heterosexual couples and to make it “even more difficult for [their] children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family.”
Moreover, they “demeaned” those in polygamous relationships of love and commitment by arbitrarily saying that only two people can be in a committed, loving relationship. And they “humiliated” their children, too.
This is now the dilemma these council members face. They need to either:
- extend benefits to all those who are in committed, loving relationships, regardless of number or sex, or
- admit publicly their own bias and discriminatory attitude toward all cohabitating relationships involving love and commitment that are not recognized by somebody as a marriage.
You see, these council members want to grant moral equivalence to some relationships outside the bounds of natural, heterosexual marriage, but not others. And the basis for that supposed equivalence — love and commitment — they are unwilling to apply to everyone fairly and equally. And in not doing so, these four advocates for same-sex marriage on Collegedale’s City Council have put on display for all to see their moral bigotry and intolerance toward all loving and committed relationships.
1 The city’s resolution says that it is not unconstitutionally recognizing same-sex marriage because the resolution “is not meant to confer legal recognition or a right, privilege or responsibility on any particular relationship.” To say that the resolution gives those who have a same-sex marriage license a legal right to family health insurance, but that the resolution “is not meant to confer legal recognition or a right, privilege or responsibility to any particular relationship” is one of the most illogical, nonsensical, and internally incoherent statements I have ever read in my life.