I've become a fan of critical thinking. By that I mean: Consider what the experts say, but reserve judgment. Never mind all those authoritative books that explain how it is, and assemble your own facts, connect the dots, and draw your own conclusions. This is especially important when your decision affects another life. Last week there was a prime example of a city council having the courage to draw their own conclusions.
The City of Bisbee, Arizona decided that there are two kinds of marriage: the secular, or civil union that bestows legal rights on a couple wanting those rights defined as legal, and the religious kind, sanctified in a church of your choice.
Well, it’s about time. The mixing of religious dogma and civil law in the matter of marriage should have never happened. It is a blatant violation of our Founding Father’s intent to keep church and state separate.
Civil union is a legal document of entitlement giving the rights and privileges of a couple to manage their finances, their health and welfare and the welfare of their children within the limits of the law, without discrimination. This is a freedom we've forgotten we advocated in the Declaration of Independence.
Religious marriage commitments, another thing entirely, are within the authority of the church, and a private matter between couples and their religion.
My town became the first in Arkansas to grant some rights legally by legislation passed in 2007. We call it the Domestic Partner Registry. The sitting council realized State law did not recognize common law marriage or domestic partnerships. That meant that these disenfranchised couples had no survivors’ rights over guardianship of their children, nor were those partners or their children able to be included in company hospital plans. Partners were not even allowed in hospital ICUs.
I was on the council at that time and we all, unanimously, felt that this was discrimination against children and partners. We could at least remedy some of that by passing an ordinance, recognized by many states and corporations as legal, if presented signed from anywhere, that would grant the right to be on a partner's company hospitalization plan. So we passed the DPR.
Kudos to Bisbee for their courage, because the religious right is going to come down on you in a big way, uttering the rallying cry of “Same Sex Marriage.” During passage of that bill, I received at least a thousand e-mails from all over the world, instigated by something called “The American Families Assn.” or whatever, telling me hell awaited if I voted for this thing. I didn’t care because they didn’t live here. I was even featured in their hate film, They're Coming To Your Town.
So congrats to Bisbee. The following is a partial quote from the news release in The Los Angeles Times.
“It is in the best interest of the city of Bisbee to refuse to continue to remain silent on this issue, in the face of discriminatory practices that are inconsistent with the principles upon which our country was founded,” the ordinance states.
Zavala Badal, Mayor of Bisbee, said, “A civil union certificate would allow a slew of city benefits for an unwed couple, such as disability or compensation for the partners of city workers and even family discounts at the local pool. Currently, partners don’t qualify. As it stands now, there are several important life decisions that are not available to unwed partners, For instance, partners cannot give authorization as to where their loved one should be buried in the city’s cemetery. Only family members can make that decision.
The Supreme Court of the United States is now considering the matter. It will be interesting what they conclude.