We don’t need it; mine’s so much cooler anyway….
I should probably be a little more clear, shouldn’t I? I’m talking about gay marriage – well, marriage, really. ‘Marriage’ being the ‘ball’, and the people bitching about the ‘sanctity’ thereof being those who need to shut the fuck up and go home.
Because I’ve got an idea. A really awesome idea – awesome because it’s mine, and I’m feeling particularly awesome right now.
Don’t worry; it’ll pass.
Here’s my idea: ditch the term. Let them have their word. Just the word, though – okay, and the bullshit church ceremonies that go with the word, but not the rights.
You ‘sanctity of marriage’ types want gays stuck with ‘civil unions’; gays want the rights. It’s a compromise. A good compromise.
But, wait – there’s more.
While we’re doing this, we’ve got a great chance to fix this rather fucked up system. No, not with semi-facetious ‘divorce bans’. I mean really fix it.
It starts with replacing ‘marriage’ with ‘civil union’, transferring all rights from one term to the other, and opening it up to both heterosexual and homosexual couples.
Weddings and ‘marriage’ ceremonies will still exist, and still carry about as much legal weight as they do now, but the ‘civil union license’ won’t enter into it. You’ll still be able to have your Special Pretty Princess Daaa-aay™ – nothing about that will change. It’ll still be a pointless, overpriced ceremony that’ll leave you with fewer friends than you went in with, a fucking huge pile of debt, and the slightly ishy feeling when you notice that someone had their poodles married under the same flower arrangements.
Here’s where things start to get a little fuzzy for me, because there are states’ rights issues, and all manner of other things. I’ll just get it out of the way up front: people who are already married don’t have to worry about these next suggestions. People who want to, though?
Step 1. The Civil Union Permit.
You’ve met your soul mate. The one being in all possible universions that you’re meant to be with [this week]. You love him/her, always and forever, or until the fall fashions hit the retail version of a second-run cinema. You want to get married now, now, right now, right now NOW damnit NOW and run barefoot through some Valtrex ad.
Well, you can’t. Not under my system. Stop stamping your foot and caterwauling about the ‘sacredidity’ of your Elvis-in-a-pink-UFO drivethrough wedding [with free Taco Bell!], and the subsequent divorce one day later….
Go out with that person – and only that person – for at least six months. Yeah, I know, that seems a little arbitrary, but work with me here. At six months, the two of you can go in and get a ‘civil union permit’ – assuming you’re both over eighteen.
There will be no fourteen year olds getting married to their father’s drinking buddy under my system.
If you haven’t already, move in together. Do not skip this step; it’s important. You can’t qualify for the civil union license without cohabitation.
What? Can’t cohabit without a blessing from your deity of choice? Doesn’t matter. Go get that blessing, and move in together. It doesn’t matter to the rest of us – our state is separate from your church.
Why am I making such a big deal about living together? Ever hear that line about how you don’t buy a car without test-driving it first? No, I’m not talking about sex, here – not entirely – just living together. Two people; one flat. One bedroom, even. Because you don’t buy a car without test-driving it, and you don’t commit to spend the rest of your life with someone without knowing if you can stand to live in the same several hundred square feet.
The permit only grants you certain privileges. What those would be, though, I’m not entirely certain. Let’s face it – there are a fuckton of rights, privileges and responsibilities laid out in the US Code. I’m thinking that a permit probably wouldn’t grant you spousal benefits with Social Security or Veterans stuff. It might get you a special provisional admittance into certain military things. Since it’s just a permit, though, you obviously don’t get the full thing. Think of it as a learner’s permit, but, instead of learning how to drive, you’re learning how to be married.
Probably, it’ll grant you the right to file joint tax returns. It’ll be up to the insurance companies whether or not to grant coverage to the probationary spouse.
Does this sound like a lot of work? Good. Getting married is too damn easy as it is.
The permit lasts for two years. If you still want to get married at the end of that two years, you can apply for a ‘civil union license’. If not, it expires, and that’s it. If you want out before that, you can cancel the permit.
If you cancel the permit and break up and get back together, and want to reapply, you’re going to have to wait. First ‘offence’ would probably be 90 days; second would be about six months. Third: a year. Do it again, and you’ll probably be denied. Stop wasting everyone’s time with your drama.
You might be able to renew it, if you, for whatever reason, feel you aren’t ready to move on. I’m not sure how long renewals will last. It’s not really required, but it’ll smooth things along if you can’t be bothered to meet certain other requirements.
Want to skip all this? You can, if you’re both over, say, 25, have provably lived together for at least two years, and…possibly some other requirements. You can skip over the permit and head straight to….
Step 2: Civil Union License
Yes. Here it is. The license. The thing that grants you all 1,138 rights, benefits, responsibilities, privileges, and possibly penalties.
If you’re under 25 and have gone through the permit process [meaning you’ve lived together for two and a half years total], or, if you [and your intended spouse] are both over 25 and have lived together for two years, you can apply for a civil union license.
Am I repeating myself? Yeah. But I think I’m trying to make a point here.
Don’t ask me what it is; I’m not entirely sure yet….
Once you’ve gotten to this point, you’ve already got a trial period under your belt. You haven’t killed each other over the wet towels on the bathroom floor. You’ve got routines worked out, learned that a relationship is work and compromise and not even a little bit about horseback rides down beaches at sunset.
Also, you’re reaching the end of that first stage, and potentially moving away from the ‘insatiable lustbunny’ part of the relationship, and into the slightly more ‘comforting just being together’ part. Mostly, though, you’ve learned to coexist, which is good. In the current system, you could find yourself suddenly living with someone you never lived with before, and…if you’ve never had a roommate, you might not understand why this is a horrible idea.
You might’ve also figured out whether or not you’re sexually compatible. This is kinda a big deal. One of you wants an open relationship, but the other doesn’t? That’s going to be an issue. Fetishes don’t mesh? Might not work. These are things you need to work out – and I’m not just talking about in this hypothetical system I’m inventing.
Getting back to the convoluted mess I’m making, though: the application process. I’m thinking that, somewhere in there, it might be a good idea to require STD testing for both parties. Hell, it might be a good idea to require that for the permit. The application process could include the optional ‘delay of approval’ if the couple wishes to include some sort of external contract [a prenuptial agreement] or, if it happens to be important for whatever reason, fertility testing. These things wouldn’t be required unless the couple agrees that they should be.
There would probably be a sort of short interview process in which the couple sits down with someone to go over the details, making sure everyone involved knows what they’re getting into, assuring full disclosure and all that. Then, once everything is verified, in order, and reasonably comprehended, you’re issued your ‘civil union license’.
Oh, by the way, you’ll have to renew it. If you want to remain spouses, that is. It’s not as big a deal as getting it issued. Both parties need to be present. There may be a way to do this digitally – like the online renewal of drivers’ licenses – but both parties have to agree to it.
See what I did there? I did away with divorce. Ha ha.
Okay, not entirely. There are still situations in which the civil union might be dissolved early. For example: you just found out that your previously perfect husband is sneaking into your daughter’s room for a little midnight buggery. In most cases, though, it’d be much easier to just let the license expire. If your previously decent spouse suddenly turns into an abusive shithead, and you just wanted to escape and forget about it, you could. He or she wouldn’t be able to renew the license without you.
Lawyers needn’t worry too much; I’m sure they’ll still be needed to sort out bitter property and custody disputes after licenses are left to expire. In situations without kids, however, where the couple is no longer a couple [one has changed, they can no longer stand living together, whatever], it just…seems much simpler this way. No more long, drawn out divorces. No more finding out that you’re still married because some idiot didn’t get the papers filed by a certain date.
Yeah, okay, I’m basing all this rather heavily on the driver’s license model, but it just seems appropriate to me. People change; sometimes people change a lot. You jump into a relationship young, you’re not really done becoming whoever you’re going to be. Neither is the other person. And, yeah, I know that’s true even past 25.
This is obviously a very rough plan. I’m not entirely sure how to account for people coming in from another country to become the spouse of an American. I think that, whatever it may be, it’d be convoluted enough that it might reduce the number of purchased brides. That could be a benefit.
As I mentioned before, people who are already ‘married’ under the current system would remain married. They could choose to opt into the ‘renewal’ process, but, if they didn’t want to, renewal wouldn’t be required. They would simply remain married. Rather, they would have a ‘civil union’ that didn’t require renewal.
The number of years between renewal would probably vary, and there could be an option to renew for a different number of years. Two or five or, at some later point, even ten. And, if you make it to a certain number of years together [after a certain age, possibly], you could make it ‘permanent’.
If you’d rather just get married, go ahead. Have the ceremony. But remember: the ‘rights’ only apply to the governmentally issued contract. Church + State != nummy peanutbutter cups, so stop trying to mix them up. You’ll just end up with a nasty, icky jar of premixed peanutbutter and green jalapeño jelly.
Why all this? Partly because a bunch of whiny little brats don’t want those nasty, nasty homosexuals playing in their sandbox because ew gay cooties I might catch the homosex oh no, but not entirely. I mostly just think that a lot of things could be avoided if people just stopped jumping into marriage the instant they meet someone who makes their insides feel all squidgy.
There might be easier ways to fix that second issue. The first bit [gay marriage] would just require repealing [and possibly burning] the Defense of Marriage Act, and replacing it with a ‘Gays are people, too, so STFU Act’ [or whatever]. The second? Maybe, instead of abstinence-only sex-ed, we could consider…something a little more realistic. Say, ‘Not having sex is okay, but, if you’re gonna, here’s how to be careful, and why’ education…possibly with a bit of ‘oh, and here’s a bunch of stuff you should expect when you get into that sort of relationship’ education. Teach them a bit about the difference between ‘lust’ and the sort of love that goes with a long-term relationship. Maybe teach them about how a relationship involves compromise and hardship and really very little in the way of gallant knights who are also well-paid professionals zipping up in their modern equivalent of a noble steed to rescue the swooning maiden….
Yeah. I know. Schools teaching that? The knight/swooning maiden thing is far more likely. So: permits, licenses, renewals.
That’s…pretty much it. My wonderfully awful idea.