Editor's Note: In the comments on , some in the community were asking why same-sex couple's needed the be able to legally marry when there were already civil unions that were recognized by some states. Patch asked Rev. Van Leer if she would elaborate on the reasons. Here is her reply:
Civil unions and domestic partnerships are separate and unequal options to marriage. The domestic partnership category was developed to extend rights to both same-sex and opposite sex unmarried couples. What rights they offer differ from city to county to state. In some places they function as more of a registry than anything else. Civil unions also vary from state, and do not extend from one state to another. Neither domestic partnerships nor civil unions provide any federal protections- only marriage does that.
Clergy of any religious tradition have the right to marry or not to marry couples either same sex or opposite sex. However, such a ceremony does not legalize a same sex couple. That legal right is only extended to same sex couples.
The protects the right of religious organizations to refuse to perform marriage ceremonies for any couple. It ensures that such clergy or religious organizations cannot be sued for refusing to do so.
An interesting point about domestic partnerships from an attorney in my congregation, Liz Ligon:
“Just a comment about DP being available regardless of sexual orientation: DP is available to opposite-sex couples only if one of the individuals is over 62. The rationale behind inclusion of this sub-group of heterosexual partnerships was to protect older couples from potential loss of federal benefits (Social Security) that they may have otherwise been entitled to based on the earnings record of a former spouse if they were to remarry. These are folks who are legally permitted to marry, but choose not to for financial reasons. As opposed to the same-sex couples who were legally barred from getting married. It will be interesting to see if the DP rules for older couples are preserved once DP protections for same-sex couples are no longer needed.”