France created a civil unions law in 1999 for gays but failed to designate gender and now about a third of straight couples getting married in France opt for civil unions because they are easier to get out of. Don George points out the obvious:
...it is terribly humorous and ironic that the French created civil unions to protect the institution of marriage...and now civil unions are undermining marriage because people are opting for them instead of marriage. Talk about the law of unintended consequences. So possibly the lesson for our country is that the best way to protect the institution of marriage is not to deny people marriage by creating a separate but equal system, but to allow gays to marry.
Er: yes. If you read my first ever essay on the topic, in 1989, you will find it was exactly this possibility that led me to back full marriage equality over marriage-lite options such as domestic partnership and civil unions. It was a way to integrate gay people and protect marriage. Civil unions and other such institutions really will undermine marriage in a way gay couples never could. In fact, in France, civil unions are now overwhelmingly heterosexual:
[T]he number of heterosexual men and women entering into a PACS agreement has grown from 42 percent of the total initially to 92 percent last year.
In this, the gay movement, in its support for civil marriage equality, is a force right now for social conservatism; and the Christianist movement is the one fomenting the real attack on the institution of marriage. Christianist doctrine - unrelated to the social facts of our time - is, in fact, a social solvent. It helps destroy the family (ask the Haggards); it undermines civil marriage's uniqueness; and it discourages social responsibility. That's because it is about maintaining the stigma toward homosexuality rather than about supporting the important social role of marriage in keeping society together.
As I have said many times, Christianism is not, properly understood, a force for social conservatism; it is a force for denial, religious neurosis and social decay. Which is why those parts of America that are most imbued with Christianist cant often have such higher levels of divorce, abortion, illegitimacy and family breakdown.