Wednesday, November 26, 2003

And now, to honor two requests.

1. Almost two weeks ago, Martin Pawley asked me to remember the one-year anniversary of the wreck of the Prestige, which ruined the green coast of Galicia in Spain one year ago on Nov. 13. (Beware the pop-up).

2. Robert Dunlap, who seems to live in Sweden although I'm not entirely sure, asked me to comment on the recent court decision in Massachusetts in the U.S., in which the court declared that it was discriminatory to not allow gay people to marry, I mean really marry, not just become legal partners.

I thought I didn't know what to say about it, but I ended up blathering on and on:

I suppose it comes down to the issue of whether it is possible to have situations that guarantee people separate but equal rights. Fifty years ago, the U.S. courts found this unconstitutional when Brown v. Board of Education came down the pike, undoing the awful previous 19th century Plessy v. Ferguson decision.

But I think you're right in saying that it's mostly symbolic as far as I can tell, aside from the fact that so far it is not, as you pointed, recognized universally, which actually is a fairly big thing, since gay people would lose their rights as couples upon entering states that don't recognize it... so gay people would only want to live in certain states, they would be at risk of being denied the right to see a dying partner in the hospital if they were on vacation in the wrong state when one of them took sick, etc.

What bothers me most about this is that for the most part, the arguments against it are all on religious grounds, and are a direct echo of arguments against, um, "miscegnation," which were made as short a time ago as the 1960s. Interestingly, it seems that the courts are at last leading public opinion rather than the other way round on the issue of gay rights, a war whose battles have been won largely on the cultural rather than the legal front - instead of courts barring discrimination, companies and municipalities have set up their own pro-gay policies because they have decided it's good business mostly. This is quite the opposite of what happened on the issue of race, where the courts led the way.

Here in Sweden, of course, it is partnership and not marriage that is the option for gay people, which guarantees, as far as I know, the same rights as marriage. The difference is that this is a law on the federal level in Sweden. But, in a way, it's ever so slightly worse in Sweden to not allow gay people to actually get married, since the church is much more of a state institution, although I think technically there is no more state church in Sweden. I think the government is talking about making the change. To my knowledge, the Netherlands was the first country to open up the institution of marriage, real marriage, to gay people.

See, I did have quite a bit to say about it after all.

The Swedish words of the day are äktenskap and partnerskap. They mean marriage and partnership.

- by Francis S.

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