The Corner

An Email From Ramesh

I’m on the run at the moment, and haven’t had a chance to check the Corner for a moment, but wanted to send you something about that New York Times story on Bush’s allegedly supporting civil unions. There are two things to remember here. The first is that the Federal Marriage Amendment would almost certainly not be read to prevent state legislatures from enacting civil unions of practically any type. There were people who raised the concern that one provision of the FMA –a provision that said that state laws should not be construed to require that marital benefits be granted to unmarried couples –would block such civil unions. I disagreed. But it’s a moot point now since the provision has been removed from the FMA. Upshot here: Bush’s comment isn’t inconsistent with the FMA.

The second is that Bush’s underlying position may not even be inconsistent with the Republican platform. Bush took Charles Gibson’s word on what the platform is and therefore claimed that he disagreed with the platform. The platform says that “legal recognition and the accompanying benefits afforded couples should be preserved for that unique and special union of one man and one woman which has historically been called marriage.” What Bush appears to be saying is that state legislatures should be able to pass laws that allow people to make certain kinds of contracts with each other. Can you allow such contracts without recognizing same-sex couples? I think so, if other people can enter the legal arrangement, too. So, for example, same-sex couples can go into business together; so can other configurations of people. Allowing such contracts doesn’t amount to “legal recognition” of couples, I think, in the sense the platform has in mind. Otherwise the platform would have to be read to prevent all such contracts, which is implausible.