It’s being proposed as a bigoted dodge to avoid having to recognize and provide gay marriages, but I think it’s actually an interesting experiment. Ironically, it could end up empirically proving that “marriages” are, in fact, unnecessary if the same goals can be met through other means.
As activist, writer, and fag extraordinaire Dan Savage has often pointed out, the rights of marriage are most necessary at the worst times in your life. Civil partners do not have the same rights as those who are married.
Even with special preparation ahead of time, a civil partner’s asserted legal rights can often be overridden by family, which is not the case in most cases for married spouses. They can be kept from visiting their partner in the hospital. They are not considered next of kin, so cannot make arrangements for a funeral. They do not have automatic and uncontested rights for inheritance, so they can (and have) been kicked out of the home they built with their partner and faced with crushing tax burdens not faced by legally married spouses. They cannot collect social security benefits. And worst of all, their dependent children will be deprived of financial stability at the most stressful time in their lives.
So go ahead, Oklahoma, get rid of marriage. Run an experiment on yourselves. Iron out all the problems in a purely civil system and see how it goes. I honestly and truly hope that it does work, because it will be a precedent for adapting similar measures elsewhere. If civil unions come with the same exact rights as marriage, there will be absolutely no difference between the two except the label. I’ve thought for a long time that there should be a separation between the legal side of marriage and the religious side. This could be the wedge that finally separates the two.
I’m not-so-sorry to say that this trick will probably backfire even if the marriage banning part of the experiment part works out. I really doubt that calling it a civil union, or “breeding couple” or whatever label they come up with will let any system evade the constitutional and legal provisions for equal treatment.