Monday, December 13, 2010

Civil Union Me

[Cross-posted at Our Big Gayborhood]

Many Americans have the privilege of the same-sex marriage debate being an abstraction, a pedantic debating exercise, that does not affect their lives in a concrete way. Oftentimes, as I talk about gender roles, patriarchy, and heterocentrism with respect to marriage, I even let myself forget that this issue is, for me, more than some sort of academic dialogue. It's personal.

Maybe it's a defense mechanism, but I don't often let myself imagine how my life would be different if anti-gay laws were not on the books. My partner and I have worked around legal inequalities when we've been able to, such as by drafting advance directives, and have accepted the ones we have not been able to control, such as our inability to file taxes jointly.

Last Wednesday, I was surprised to find myself in tears as I learned that my home state, Illinois, had passed a civil unions bill. Tangibly, this will affect same-sex couples in very real ways.

For the first time, I seriously considered formalizing my relationship with my partner, as it would be more than a symbolic union, one that had legal consequences as well. Indeed, when hearing of this news during the day, we simultaneously IM'ed each other:

Her: Civil unions passed!
Me: Want to get civil union'ed? LOL.
Her: How romantic.

Further, the passage of this law means that both the National Organization for [Heterosexual] Marriage and the Catholic Church, two institutions that that campaigned to get lawmakers to oppose the bill, lost. That's always fun.

Of course, the Defense of Marriage Act still prohibits the federal government from granting any rights, privileges, or benefits upon same-sex couples. Yet, for now, I am happy with the civil union baby step. In Illinois, same-sex couples will at least receive benefits that heterosexual married couples receive from the state of Illinois.

Until this bill passed, I didn't realize how accustomed to legal inequality I have become, even though I blog about inequality every single day. Even though this bill is not perfect, it has reminded that, oh yeah, American institutions and processes are for me too.

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