An “Outside Of the Box” solution to Gay Marriage Debate

December 4th, 2009 by Al Lewis (alewis)

This posting is reprised from February, when New Hampshire did the same thing that New York just did yesterday.   Both legislatures missed an opportunity to come up with a “radical centrist” answer that would satisfy all but the extremists on both sides.

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With all the major problems the country faces, I hate to use up valuable electrons by bringing up gay marriage, but I do so only to solve the problem so it stops popping up on ballots everywhere and most recently in the New Hampshire state legislature, and diverting people from economic issues.   Being a social libertarian at heart, my personal opinion is that people should be left alone to do what they want as long as it does not harm others.

 

Here’s what you do.  First, two of the three New Hampshire bills agree that civil unions should be granted to gays, unions that preserve the rights of marriage.    Beyond that, opinions differ regarding whether that union should be called a “marriage,” or whether “marriage” should be reserved for heterosexuals.  The other bill would define “marriage” as a union between a man and a woman.”  Until the next paragraph, this first bill was in opposition to the other two.

 

But think outside of the box for a minute.  There is a third way.  Before introducing the third way, consider some historical context:   in the early days of what was then called “women’s liberation” there was a debate over the use of “Miss” vs. ”Mrs.” to indicate whether a woman was married, while men had only “Mr.,” meaning that their marital status was not reflected in their title.   Rather than argue about whether the distinction for women should likewise be changed so that their marital status was not reflected in their gender title, a new title, “Ms.,” was introduced as an option.   Women could either have a marriage-neutral title, like men, or keep their marital status-specific title.   Today “Ms.” is part of the lexicon while some women still use the traditional titles, and no one thinks twice about it.

 

Why not do the same thing here?  Why not create a new word which can – at the couple’s option – apply to a union of either gays or straights, but with the same legal meaning as a marriage.  Perhaps – and we are not, uh, wedded to this word (no pun intended but if it were it would have been a good one) — call it being “wedded” instead of being married.     Gays may only be “wedded” while straights can either be “wedded” or ”married,” as they prefer.  That way, “marriage” is maintained as an institution uniting men and women only, while being “wedded” may involve any two people.    Straights who have no objection to gay marriage will describe themselves as being wedded while other straight couples will maintain tradition.   Hey, we are not wedded to the word, just the concept of the ThinkOOB “third way.”

 

Gays, then, would have exactly the same institution available to straights, while tradition is preserved as well.  True, radical gays and arch-conservatives will still oppose this ThinkOOB solution, but they are very small minorities whose voices will be drowned out by those who realize this is as good as it gets, solution-wise, and are ready to move on to solving more pressing economic problems.

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6 Responses to “An “Outside Of the Box” solution to Gay Marriage Debate”

  1. Mary Whisner Says:

    This is similar to a proposal that there be one legal relationship that the state creates and that it be available to everyone (call it civil marriage or domestic partnership or civil union), and that there be another, religious relationship that people who choose to can have recognized by their religious institutions.

    If you want the legal obligations and benefits, you go with the legal relationship.

    If your faith recognizes your relationship, you can also go to your church, synagogue, mosque, temple, or whatever, and have it blessed.

    By the way, radical gays think that the whole move for marriage is way too conservative. They argue that the institution of marriage is bad all the way around. There are also some people who argue that there should be legal protections for all sorts of families — e.g., elderly sisters who live together.

  2. Al Lewis Says:

    Yes, the whole concept of marriage being legal — in the absence of minor children — is a bit of a head-scratcher. In my last marriage (to a previous girlfriend who had a terminal disease and only lived 8 weeks after we got married), we never got a license and didn’t feel any bit less married as a result.

    Someone suggested the word “pairage” for a marriage that either gays or straights could enter into but for some reason the comment didn’t show up. A GREAT word!

  3. alewis Says:

    It also occurs to me that — in states where gays are allowed civil unions with rights identical to those of marriages — you would not need to change the law at the state level. The law exists. You are merely changing the wording on the marriage license to “pairage,” and marriages are done on the municipal level, at city halls. I myself would be willing to get married just to be the first straight couple to get a “pairage license.”

    Yes, someone would sue to enjoin the process, and say this has to be done by the state but until then we would enjoy our pairage just a little bit more than we would have enjoyed a marriage, knowing that gays are enjoying exactly the same pairage we have, the only difference being the birth control.

  4. Al Lewis Says:

    Just to encourage the rest of you to Think OOBily, I got permission to list the real name of the guy who came up with the word “Pairage,” David Blacklock, of Waco, TX. (Also a prolific Amazon reviewer to whom an advance review copy was sent, who gave my book five stars, if anyone would care to look at the OOBonomics Amazon page.)

    David will be receiving his $500 check — the third person to do so — as soon as either a second OOBonomics edition comes out OR the word “pairage” gets into the vernacular. (He doesn’t get the $1-million because the actual idea of a third word for straights and gays to marry was mine. It’s a bit harder to win the $1-million than the $500, as you might imagine.)

  5. harvardeconomist Says:

    I usually read this blog for the economic ideas (and will order the book) but while I see how this solution works, I don’t get why you don’t need a law to be passed to allow it

  6. alewis Says:

    Assume that you are in a state that already has civil unions for gays. Gays can receive a license for a civil union. The rights of civil unions are identical vis-a-vis the state (and for health care and pensions, employers) to those of a married couple. Rights vis-a-vis each other might be different, like what each partner’s rights are in divorce — more on this in a minute.

    Therefore a homosexual couple that got a license for a civil union AND agreed in the marriage contract to be bound by the family laws of the state regarding marriage, would in effect be married, EXCEPT that they cannot get a marriage license from their town.

    The town or city could easily just create a new civil union license, then, that looks IDENTICAL to a marriage license except that the word “Pairage” replaces the word “Marriage.” They are within the confines of the state statute, which does not regulate what they call the civil union on the license other than it isn’t a marriage, to call it a “pairage.”

    Then a heterosexual couple could also get the exact same license, agree to be bound by laws regarding marriage not already in the civil union (if any), and have a “pairage” identical to a marriage.

    If even a few hetero couples opt for a pairage (as I would) the entire debate becomes moot because suddenly a civil union is elevated to parity with marriage. Since the large majority of people support civil unions, it is unlikely that any legislature will repeal civil unions. Absent that repeal, you now have a coupling agreement which is identical for straights and gays with all the rights and obligations of marriage.

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