Different Is Not Equivalent
State Senator Donna Nesselbush (D, Pawtucket) gets to the heart of the civil unions/same-sex marriage matter:
Nesselbush said she initially planned to support [civil union legislation] “as a step forward,” but changed her mind because of language — added on the House floor — that exempts religious groups from recognizing a civil union or treating such couples the same as they would treat married couples.
In her comments on the Senate floor, Nesselbush said those who support the bill are “essentially institutionalizing inequality.”
“So while extending valuable rights, if passed, this legislation would essentially establish a separate status, and separate is never equal,” she said.
The bottom line is that separate and unequal are entirely appropriate when two groups are not similarly situated. Unless one takes the extreme radical view that men and women are not differentiable — that they are entirely the same — then there will remain the possibility that it’s reasonable to treat the relationships that they have with each other as unique.
What activists like Nesselbush wish to do is to disallow society from observing the uniqueness of intimate relationships between members of our species’ two genders, which by their nature have the capacity to generate new human beings. Judgment might be different were our government not so pervasive in its regulation of everyday life — were it possible for social institutions to make the substantive statement of behaving as if their beliefs are actually true.
The religious exemption in the civil union bill at least preserves that ability in some minimal (albeit insufficient) way. Every individual and organization ought to be empowered to treat marriage between a man and a woman as uniquely worthy of recognition, and our government ought to do the same.