The latest trend from California could be non-marriage marriage -- thanks to a new bill sponsored by state Sen. Carole Migden to expand civil unions to heterosexual couples.
You've heard straight supporters of same-sex marriage quip before: How can same-sex marriage affect their heterosexual unions? Unwittingly, Migden has given ammunition to those who argue that same-sex unions will change the institution of marriage for everyone, as she works to offer all heterosexuals Marriage Lite.
Migden is the author of the 1999 civil union bill that allowed same-sex couples to register with the state as domestic partners. Unfortunately, no state bill can offer same-sex couples all the protections of marriage, such as Social Security survivor benefits -- and that should change.
The 1999 bill also allowed heterosexual couples with one partner older than 62 to register as domestic partners -- in order to allow seniors to protect their pensions while enjoying some benefits of marriage. Migden had wanted civil unions to apply to straight and same-sex couples of all ages, but agreed to the over-62 compromise. Now with Senate Bill 11, she is pushing to extend the benefit of having it both ways to all heterosexual couples.
Migden's rationale? More than half of couples in the United States are living together without getting married. Migden, in a telephone interview, cited a New York Times article that reported on heterosexual couples who say they will not marry until homosexual couples can do the same. "It's not just Angelina Jolie and Brad," Migden noted. Brad, being Brad Pitt, who wrote in Esquire, "Angie and I will consider tying the knot when everyone else in the country who wants to be married is legally able."
Note Pitt wrote "consider." And for such commitment, California should change the law? Migden lauded the freedom in America "to choose or not to choose" to marry.
She's right, but that freedom already exists. SB11 is about allowing heterosexuals who don't wed to enjoy some benefits of marriage, without the covenant of matrimony.
An SB11 fact sheet notes that some 40 percent of unwed mothers are "professional, older women who want to have babies" and some "may simply have chosen to live with their significant others first. If those unmarried couples prefer registering as domestic partners so their children can have access to health and other benefits, they should be provided that opportunity."
Except: Whether parents marry or not, they have an obligation to provide for their children and can list their children as dependents for health care. SB11 would not affect children -- it would benefit unmarried parents.
And, I'll add, while saddling employers with cost of benefits for adults who choose not to wed.
I asked Migden if she could name one child who has been denied benefits and would be helped by her bill. She could not name one. The best she could do was mention that a TV cameraman told her he would like to see the bill pass because his son had a child outside of wedlock.
Sorry, but when you want to change institutions that mold the American family, you should have in an arsenal that carries more punch than a weak anecdote and a couple of news articles on trendy couples.
Migden told me she sees in the Constitution a right "to determine your relationship." As a lawmaker, it is her job to accommodate people living in the relationships they choose.
Does that include polygamy? After all, some families in America practice polygamy. Migden answered that she is not focusing on "people that live in the frontiers with their animals." That poses a bit of a problem. You see, people in San Francisco may not care about the polygamous practices of Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints or polygamous Muslims. But that won't stop polygamists from using Migden's arguments in impartial courts to change the law to accommodate their misogynist brand of marriage.
Last year, former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin commissioned a study to prove that Canada's same-sex marriage law would not lead to polygamy -- only to see the legal panel call for a repeal of Canada's anti-polygamy law.
Now for the sake of uncommitted heterosexuals, Migden is ready to weaken the institution of marriage. I guess she thinks it's the government's job to help unwed parents stay uncommitted.