Once the highest court of a state declares that a husband and wife are no longer needed for a valid marriage, then whatever unions it creates are not real marriages, no matter what the state chooses to call them. A dog doesn't have five legs even if you call its tail a leg. Consequently, Massachusetts couples will have to get married in another state in order to be assured of a marriage that other states and the federal government will recognize.
To try to avoid the consequences of what Massachusetts House Speaker Tom Finneran said is a decision that has "legal, moral, and social considerations for 270 million Americans, not just 6 million people in Massachusetts," the Massachusetts Senate has asked the state supreme court for an advisory opinion about whether gay civil unions might be an acceptable substitute for gay marriage.
The Senate's request deceptively refers to its proposal as "civil unions," but in fact it is identical in every respect to the court's redefinition of marriage as the "union of two persons." The senate's proposal does not merely create a separate legal category giving civil unions the benefits of marriage as does the law that Vermont Gov. Howard Dean signed in 2000.
The proposed Massachusetts bill states categorically that a civil union is "equivalent to marriage and shall be treated
under law as a marriage," and that "all laws applicable to marriage shall also apply to civil unions." The bill states that "the term marriage as it is used throughout the law shall be construed to include marriage and civil union."
This proposed Massachusetts bill further declares: "It shall be an unlawful practice for any person to discriminate on the basis of a person's being joined in a civil union rather than a marriage." Note the broad sweep of the restriction placed on "any person."
Logic dictates that if a civil union is no less than a marriage, then marriage is no more than a civil union. In either case, this legal status should not be recognized as valid outside of Massachusetts, and if opposite-sex couples want to be recognized as married by the federal government and by the other 49 states, they will have to travel to another state to pronounce their marriage vows.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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