Separate, Unequal

Joe Carter responds to my post:

Extending the exact same benefits is not “codifying inequality.” But for Sullivan, et al., it is not about benefits but about forcing the acceptance of gay sex as “normal” and equal to heterosexual sex. This is an absurd reason and nothing the government should be involved in.

Actually, it is about accepting gay love and commitment as indistinguishable in moral worth and social status as straight love. That's all. Civil marriage is not about sex as such, as any straight couple will tell you. You can have lots of sex without marriage. And you can have a marriage without much or any sex. But you cannot have a meaningful marriage without love and commitment. Only one tiny sliver of humanity is currently and deliberately prevented from having such love and commitment recognized under the law: homosexuals. That's the only reason anyone is having this discussion.

I should say I don't keep up with Carter as assiduously as I should, but it also strikes me that this new post is an evolution of his position. The last time I checked, Carter favored "an expanded form of the proposed reciprocal-beneficiary contracts [as] the model for civil unions in America." Now he favors the "exact same benefits" as civil marriage for civil unions, and backs extending the right to civil unions to every two-person relationship that does not currently qualify for civil marriage.

This is a pretty staggering change in his position, so before I delve into it, some further questions to Joe for clarification. In his preferred policy reform,

a) Could someone be a member of a civil union and a civil marriage?

b) If so, what happens when the legal claims of your spouse and your civil partner conflict?

c) Could you have more than one civil union at a time - say your best friend from high school, your same-sex spouse, and your great aunt? Or do you have to choose one single civil partner?

d) How would anyone be able to tell if the relationships were sexual or non-sexual? If you can't tell, aren't you potentially providing legal protection for polygamy or incest?

e) Could a straight couple choose to have a civil union rather than a civil marriage and suffer no legal penalty?

f) Does not extending the full legal rights of civil marriage to any couple on any (non-sexual!) basis essentially abolish civil marriage as a special category or reduce it to merely sexual behavior?

g) Does this mean you support a repeal of DOMA and a federal civil unions bill, encompassing all the rights associated with, say, immigration and social security?

h) Did you just pull this cockamamie policy position out of thin air because you can't stand the idea of two guys getting it on?