There was a huge legislative victory for Democrats in Colorado today. Civil unions for same-sex couples were approved by the state’s legislature and will soon give gay and lesbian partners access to more rights than ever before in this state. But as I read about the newest state to approve civil unions, (Colorado is the 19th), I couldn’t help but be a little… under-whelmed. Civil unions? When full-fledged marriage equality feels so within our grasp?
I am a straight married woman, but I consider myself fully invested in the fight for marriage equality in this country. When Barack Obama voiced his support for same-sex marriage, I think I actually shed tears of joy. When California’s courts struck down Proposition 8 and sent the case to the Supreme Court, I stood up and jumped around my living room. I think our Koa and I even made a virtual toast. And when the 2012 elections approved same-sex marriage rights through the will of the electorate in states like Maine, Maryland and Wisconsin, I was downright ecstatic.
Call me crazy, but as a citizen of this country who knows and loves people of varying sexual orientations, I think that the marriage equality battle is one we can all feel invested in. So yes, I refer to it as “our battle.” And civil unions in Colorado did not feel like “our victory.” It was kinda… meh.
Some might call the hang up on the word marriage nit-picky. If civil unions offer the same basic rights as marriage, what’s the big deal with calling them two separate things? But I feel like legally setting them up at separate institutions is a dangerous construct to accept. It means that every time legislation gives married couples a protection or an incentive or a consideration, there could be an argument about whether said article should apply to civil unions as well. Think of how hard we had to fight to expand the Violence Against Women Act to same-sex couples. Do we want to continually have these arguments and fight these fights?
And honestly, if the argument is made that, “Who care about a different name?” then consider why people care about calling the institutions the same thing. What’s the difference? The problem is that some people want to solidify that there’s a difference between same-sex partnerships and straight marriage. And there’s isn’t. Or at least, there shouldn’t be.
So excuse me if I don’t pop the champagne bottle for civil unions. We’re marriage equality snobs over here. We don’t get out of bed for anything less than full equality.