The Unspoken Definition of Civil Unions
As a general rule, I think it best that legislators resist penning bills if they find themselves writing around the thing or quality that motivated them to put pen to statehouse stationary in the first place. Consider the proposed legislation (PDF) to which Marc linked earlier.
It defines “marriage” as “the legally recognized union of one man and one woman,” but it offers no similar definition for civil unions (e.g., “one man and one man, or one woman and one woman”). Stumbling along with the unspoken left unsaid, the bill goes so far as to forbid women from civil uniting with female relatives and men from doing so with male relatives (just as current RI law forbids men from marrying female relatives and women male), but if opposite-sex couples can enter into civil unions — which is nowhere forbidden in the proposed legislation — then people could civil unite with relatives of the opposite sex.
This oversight (as I’m reasonably confident it is) relates to the reason that I’ve long stressed that my potential support for civil unions applies only if they are drawn out in the law without reference to marriage. Both those who support and those who oppose civil unions ought to be in favor of requiring that the public debate address what, exactly, is being sought and what qualities suggest particular rights and privileges.