Some of what gay couples say they hope to gain through legislation or court orders conferring them with marriage rights could easily be achieved by other means. Gay couples, just as any two individuals, can jointly own property together, and the rights to such property upon death or dissolution of the partnership can be spelled out in the contract itself.
States could -- and should -- pass laws that allow adults to choose who will make medical decisions for them in the absence of a spouse. Why should only homosexuals and not other single persons be allowed to designate someone other than a family member to make medical decisions if they become incapacitated?
Many employers and some states already allow gay couples to share medical and pension benefits. So long as the individual is paying the premiums, why shouldn't he be able to designate who participates? And if the pension is deferred compensation that the employee has already earned, why shouldn't she be able to leave what is in the account to the beneficiary of her choice? And why should such benefits be available exclusively to individuals who have a sexual relationship with each other?
The most nettlesome issue for gay couples involves parental rights when one partner is the biological or adoptive parent and the other has not adopted (or in some cases not been allowed to adopt) the child. If something happens to the non-adoptive or non-biological parent, the other person who has cared for and raised the child, often for the child's entire life, does not have the right to obtain custody or, in some cases, even maintain a relationship with the child. This doesn't seem fair to the parent or to the child. But this issue also can be specifically addressed without redefining marriage.
As with abortion 30 years ago, states were on their way to defining public policy on the rights of homosexual couples when the courts intervened. The initiatives on this year's ballot will simply ensure that this tough social and moral issue is resolved through the normal democratic process and not by a few judges.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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