Anybody? Bueller?

CNN.com has a special section posted (www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2007/lgbt.america/) that covers issues pertaining to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) people. The comments emailed in from around the country make interesting reading and show a wide variety of opinions. And, because certain politicos and their puppetmaster religious leaders have made gay marriage an issue in the past 2 major elections, the section also has a rundown of where the major presidential candidates stand. That's interesting too, but a bit predictable. Only the true longshots—oh, let's face it, calling them longshots is generous—support full gay marriage. The rest are "civil union" fence-riders or against it.

Of course this issue isn't the most serious one a president would face. In fact, the president won't face it at all unless Congress sends a bill for signing, so it seems more of a yes/no question than anything. (As in, "Would you sign it?") Also, it doesn't do the country any good to decide our leadership based on one issue, but since this one affects me personally I can't help evaluating the candidates' carefully crafted statements. Nor can I help feeling let down afterwards; not so much by what they say, but rather by what they don't.

I call the civil unionists fence-riders because they DO support full marriage equality for same-sex couples--except for what that marriage should be called by the government. It would be the height of bureaucracy and expense to create two "separate but equal" statuses for couples, but that is the prevailing suggestion. Now, if someone proposed a policy that ALL couples, gay or straight, who want to be legally seen as couples were called some new term such as "unified," fine. But no one is saying that, and it would still be easier (and require fewer costly revisions and reprintings of forms and documents) if we just called everyone "married."

The disappointing candidate summaries reminded me of some comments from Barack Obama on the topic I saw in a news article a few months ago. It reported that his apparent rationale for the civil union position was that, for many people, the term "marriage" has a religious association to it.

That sort of "what can you do?" attitude is where the civil unionists really cop out. As civil servants, it should be their job to point out that the issue is one of civil law, not religious sacrament.

I really want a candidate who will stand up and say that. I want the distinction clarified--repeatedly. I wish for a candidate who emphasizes that the law neither condones nor condemns what couples do in their private homes unless criminal activity is involved. I want someone to say that the law leaves any opinions whether a particular couple should or should not get married (or stay married) to that couple's friends, families and therapists. That's because law is impassive, objective, and neutral, and doesn't care about the personalities involved, nor their sexuality.

I want a candidate—or more than one—to argue that to the law, marriage is a legal partnership, similar to a merger between two businesses. All the religious ritual in the world won't make you legally married until you follow the law, so why should anybody's religious beliefs dictate who can be legally married?

Someone should have the guts to say that. That I'm still waiting for someone to do that, in a crowded field where they all have to fight to stand out, is just sad.