Note: filistro has just returned from vacation. This is the last of her previously-written articles, but it seems appropriate to publish now, in light of the recent addition of Hawaii to the civil union states, plus Obama’s decision to not enforce the Defense of Marriage Act.
In 1999, France legalized a somewhat unique form of civil union. This French version of not-quite-marriage carries almost all the same tax benefits and legal protections of marriage, but can be dissolved with the delivery of a registered letter.
While civil unions are legal in France for both heterosexual and same-sex marriages, traditional marriage is only available for heterosexuals. But French officials have been startled to observe the rising popularity of the civil-union option among heteros, who made up 95% of civil unions in 2009. Another surprising development is the overall acceptance of the “not-quite-marriage” in France,where there are now two civil unions for every three traditional marriages.
While the partnerships have exploded in popularity, marriage numbers have continued a long decline in France, as across Europe. Just 250,000 French couples married in 2009, with fewer than four marriages per 1,000 residents; in 1970, almost 400,000 French couples wed. Germany, too, has seen a similar plunge in marriage rates. In 2009, there were just over four marriages per 1,000 residents compared with more than seven per 1,000 in 1970. In the United States, the current rate is 6.8 per 1,000 residents.
In the United States, Nevada, D.C., Illinois, and now Hawaii have legalized civil unions.
It is certainly interesting to see how many people in Europe, given the option, have chosen a civil union over a traditional marriage. But what I find even more fascinating is the stunning hypocrisy of American Republicans in response to these developments. Maggie Gallagher from the National Review, who has long been a tireless crusader against marriage rights for same-sex couples, posted the following:
The New York Times reports this morning that in France, civil unions are replacing marriages—for straight couples. More evidence that Illinois made a big mistake in passing that form of a civil-union bill. If we are going to provide alternative partnership-benefit structures for couples who aren’t eligible for marriage—don’t extend them to couples who are.
If they want the benefits of marriage, they can marry.
If they aren’t as committed as marriage implies, they ought not to expect to be treated as married by the government.
Did you get that? If they want the benefits of marriage, they can marry. So much for the pretense of “separate but equal,” in which Republicans have endlessly claimed that of course they want same-sex couples to enjoy all the benefits and protections of traditional marriage…they just don’t want them to have the “name.”
Gallagher makes it all too clear what the agenda really is: to punish people by denying them rights and benefits available to their fellow citizens, simply for the “crime” of being gay Americans.