The Williams Institute in the U.S. has produced some research showing that same-sex couples take up marriage faster than civil unions.
“We see a lot of evidence that same-sex couples strongly prefer marriage over civil unions or domestic partnerships.
“Same-sex couples marry at higher rates in the first year they have the option than we see in civil union states, for example.
“Our findings are consistent with other research showing that couples value marriage more for its social meaning than for its practical benefits.”
I’m often told that we don’t need same-sex marriage in Aotearoa because we already have civil unions. While our civil unions, legally, are practically equivalent to marriage — where in other countries, they’re often a token bone thrown our way to shut us up — the legal considerations usually don’t come into people’s minds when proposing to their significant others.
Yes, there are legal considerations to take in to account, but I’m not going to get married (or CU’d) to adjust my taxes — it’ll be because I really love someone and want to make a public declaration of that love.
That there are people who want marriage equality when we already have civil unions speaks volumes to the social value that we place on marriage as an institution. It may have similar legality to civil unions, but it carries far more dignity.
The government might want to be swayed with legal and economic arguments, but this is one that is squarely grounded in an issue of dignity. If we are to truly move towards an inclusive society, where I am free to walk down the street holding my partner’s hand without being constantly harassed (has happened — “Poo-Warrior” was one of the more creative alternatives to the usual “fags!”) or be spat at (has happened), then we need to show that queer people are entitled to the same rights and privileges as everyone else. Marriage is a good, simple place to start — it’s a long-standing tradition that is well respected by society. It’s not the be all and end all, however — there’s a shitload of other stuff we have to work on.
Trans* people need to be explicitly protected in the Human Rights Act, school bullying needs to be seriously tackled, the Adoption Act needs to be modernised, and there’s a lot of work that needs to be done socially to increase people’s acceptance of queer people. That doesn’t preclude marriage equality, however, and the government declaring us of being worthy of the same dignity in our relationships as everyone else would be a significant step in queer rights.
The research from The Williams Institute backs this up — that it’s about dignity, not legality. And we all deserve the same dignity as everyone else.