Civil unions are modern day segregation

by Stacey Oparnica

MCT Campus
MCT Campus

Debating whether or not to legalize same-sex marriage is not for the faint of heart. Oftentimes, it yields a firestorm of disputes about religion, traditionalism, the right to privacy and issues of equality. Those in opposition of same-sex marriage argue that allowing same-sex couples to marry would be a threat to the sanctity of traditional marriage and their religious beliefs. Desperation to halt this seemingly never-ending battle has given way to what appears to be a middle ground: civil unions.

Civil unions aim to provide same sex couples with roughly the same rights and privileges as those in heterosexual relationships. This option often appears to be the only path to resolution in this impassioned debate, or so most think. Some — generally those opposed to gay marriage — believe it establishes the perfect middle ground. Others, such as myself, see it as an unsatisfying attempt to compromise the rights of homosexual citizens.

For one, civil unions are not recognized in all states, and because there is no solid definition for what a civil union entails, states are allowed to alter or completely refuse “marital” rights and privileges to same-sex couples. Secondly, because the federal government does not recognize civil unions, same-sex couples are prohibited from receiving certain federal benefits that heterosexual married couples have access to, such as immigrant marital privileges, joint federal tax returns and social security survivor benefits.

But worst of all, civil unions completely segregate the gay and lesbian community from the rest of society, forcing them to legally identify with a specialized group of people, simply because of their sexual orientation, so they can receive some of the marital rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples. Excuse me, but what year is this? For those who don’t remember the Supreme Court case of Plessy v. Ferguson, the case evolved when Homer Plessy, a black man, deliberately defied Louisiana’s Separate Car Act, which legally segregated blacks and whites on intrastate railroads, by sitting in a car for whites only. In 1896, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of John Howard Ferguson and declared “separate but equal” accommodations for blacks and whites.

Granted, while today’s segregation of homosexuals is not as severe or obvious as the struggles represented by Plessy, the “separate but equal” mentality is being applied all the same.

The proof lies in plain sight. Gay and lesbian citizens do not share the same rights as other U.S. citizens, yet those attempting to mask the obvious inequality presume to parade around the option of civil unions, with all the bells and whistles attached, assuring homosexual couples will share most, if not all, of the same rights as heterosexual couples. If this doesn’t scream separate but equal, then you’re not listening hard enough.

What disturbs me the most about segregating marital statuses is the attitude that accompanies this insolent proposal as if the closed-minded, haughty opponents of gay marriage are bestowing some charitable gift on the homosexuals of this country by allowing them to “unite.” Who do these people think they are? They seem to believe same-sex couples should be satisfied with whatever they can get. I’m sure African Americans heard the same spiel during the civil rights movement. Imagine if they had actually listened.

What I can’t fathom is how people can attempt to justify withholding certain rights from another citizen. What are they so afraid of? That allowing homosexuals to marry will ruin the sanctity of their religion’s marriages? Oh, please. In what ways are same-sex couples going to tarnish marriage that heterosexual couples haven’t already? Divorce, infidelity and sodomy run rampant throughout marriages. Trust me, heterosexual couples have already done it all.

“But it makes me uncomfortable.” Well, people advocating prejudice and segregation in 2011 makes me uncomfortable. “The Bible only recognizes intimacy between a man and a woman.” What’s your point? I don’t live my life according to the Bible and if the Constitution could speak, it would recite the First Amendment. Nevertheless, the core issue here is not religion or the sanctity of marriage. It’s the misconception that legalizing gay marriage is something to be debated when in reality, it isn’t. Equality is just common sense.

— Stacey Oparnica is a journalism sophomore.

— The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Daily Aztec.