New Minnesota Bill Would Give Everyone Civil Unions, Gay and Straight, Leaving Marriage to Churches

A new bill set for introduction in Minnesota would redefine marriage in the state as a civil union for all couples, ABC6 reports:

MinnesotaA new version of the civil union bill is said to go for its first reading Thursday at the Minnesota capitol. It would make civil unions for everyone, gay or straight, and leave the term marriage specifically for churches…

That definition of marriage has been a constant battle at the state capital. There's a bill in support of same-sex marriage, one suggesting civil unions for gay couples, and now a bill putting civil unions in place of marriage for everyone.

"It makes certain that every Minnesotan couple gets a civil union in the state of Minnesota and that marriages are left to the churches that are offering them," said Rep. Norton. She says she'll be signing onto the new legislation because this way everyone will be treated equally under Minnesota law. "Some people have goten hurt by my decision to sign this on, but as I think I’ve shared with you before, I have not found a majority of folks in my community with one opinion."


  1. says

    A libertarian (member of the Free State Project) in NH tried this a couple of years ago. It seemed no one else wanted to break it to Grandma and Grandpa that they weren’t married any more. It also seemed that folks weren’t keen on the idea of being bilked of their Social Security retirement benefits by dumbassed state legislators.

    If no such thing as civil marriage existed, Rep. Norton might have a point. But – hey – it does! My second wedding (of 3 – I give hetero marriage a BAD name) was performed by a justice of the peace.

    More false equivalence and straw.

  2. MikeBoston says

    Too funny! Do they not realize that the federal government does not recognize civil unions (regardless of the gender of those involved)? The real benefits to being married come at the federal level – more than 1152 of them. And they hinge on the word ‘married’. I wonder how the Minnesotans who opted to get hitched at City Hall instead of a church would feel about having no federal benefits. I guess they’d feel like gays do. Pissed about the inequality of it.

  3. RyanInWyo says

    I don’t see how this would work with regard to the federal government, which does not recognize civil unions. Would all of these couples be without federal marriage benefits? I’m guessing that would be a deal breaker for the bill.

  4. Jack M says

    This is what happens when we leave it up to the states to make decisions on matters that are universal for all citizens. It is a slippery slope to mass confusion.

  5. Francis #1 says

    Unfortunate the votes still aren’t there quite yet on marriage in Minnesota. With that being said, this isn’t an acceptable compromise and it’s not realistically going to work. We’ll see if it gains traction or not.

  6. Gerry says

    Why are people such idiots? There are plenty of churches which would support marriage equality… this does absolutely nothing. People should stop with the madness of tying themselves into a prezel to prevent marriage equality. Ugh!

  7. GregV says

    “Leaving marriage to the churches” is ridiculous. Marriage is not exclusive to Christians.
    The weddings I’ve attended in my life so far have been all over the map as far as what kind of ceremony they chose. I’ve attended the weddings of Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims, and agnostics and atheists, etc. (and often a combination within the couple). Even many of the Christians who married Christians did so in a park or a community hall or a hotel courtyard or in their own home or in a regal old theatre, and many of the Christians did NOT have religious ceremonies or have it conducted by a clergyman.

    Nobody should be told “Oh, you can’t have your wedding in a synagogue because the government says it’s up to churches now.”
    It’s none of the government’s business where a wedding is held..
    The only advantage I could imagine to even starting this conversation is that if straight couples who are on the fence about equsl rights realized everything they would stand to lose if they were not allowed a state-, federally-, and internationally-recognized marriage, they would finally understand what we mean when we say that it is “more than just a word.”

  8. CAnaivePete says

    All of your good points bring a question to mind. Since there is going to be tampering with definition(s) no matter what, is it possible the Supreme Court outcome might be to extend marriage-equivalent benefits on the federal level to not only marriages, but also to anything termed a civil union (and maybe even to domestic partnerships)? Then this Minnesota idea might have some validity.

  9. Steve says

    Truthfully, I would rather see Civil Unions passed in states with a bare majority support than nothing at all – all while hoping that the Supreme Court rules that separate but equal is once again unequal and anything similar to marriage should be called just that, marriage. This would double the amount of states with same-sex marriage.

    If the Supreme Court doesn’t make a decision like that by July, then we can officially dump Civil Unions as a compromise and go for the end goal of Marriage Equality.

  10. Steven H says

    This whole “getting government out of the marriage business” business is moronic; however, it’s not actually not all that bad for us, mostly because it kinda makes all of our arguments for us. If a state ever *were* to implement civil unions for all, a whole lot of straight people would figure out pretty quickly why civil marriage is such a good thing for everybody… and also why churches are piss poor sources of good governance.

  11. Steve says

    More special rights for religious nuts. Marriage is *already* a civil contract and has been so in America since Colonial times. Even the ultra-theocratic Puritans set it up that way.

  12. Caliban says

    This “solution” is something that’s been thrown out by right-wingers as a compromise position every once in a while, even by the blabbermouths at Fox News.

    Now watch. They’ll be screaming like scalded cats about it!

  13. HkFca says

    This is a fair compromise and offers us the rights of a civil marriage with equality. We should not and cannot demand that every society and every state accept our unions a marriages. It is as unfair to force our conception of marriage down their throats as it is for them to force their religion down ours. All we can ask for is equality under the law and this compromise achieves that. Straight couples as well as gay couples will be treated exactly the same.

  14. BobN says

    Well, I suppose this is one clever way to get heterosexuals to understand the importance of the word “marriage”, but it seems kinda mean to trick ’em into thinking a civil unions means much. The feds ignore them. Most states ignore them. They’re useless overseas in most countries.

    Bonanza for the insurance companies, though.

  15. Caliban says

    Actually HkFca, no it doesn’t. One of the ongoing problems in states where “civil unions” are allowed is that they are in a gray area of the law and even corporate rules. “You’re civil unioned? How nice. We only give benefits to couples who are MARRIED.”

    It’s a nightmare of bureaucracy and red tape.

  16. says

    I have a very complicated opinion on the issue. Even though this is a way for some people against gay marriage to “appease” gays, theoretically, I like the idea of civil unions for all. I think that marriage is a religious institution, and some people have relationships that do not fit the mold dictated by traditional religious beliefs…gay or straight…thus, a “civil union” may be a more appropriate term. However, would you still use the words “husband” and “wife”? It may get confusing / awkward in regards to the wording…

  17. Michaelandfred says

    How do these people get elected? How is it that everyone reading this article knows what this woman does not? They just make things up as they go…..

  18. Dave C. says

    The bigger issue is the false premise that marriage should be ‘one size fits all.’ People want and need different levels of commitment in relationships. Having two or three levels of marriage and commitment for all adults would better meet the reality of adult relationships. Churches would still be free to recognize that they will or none of the above.

  19. says

    MuscleModel — whatever you may believe, marriage has always been a secular institution. The Christian church didn’t even accept it as a sacrament until 800 years ago, and marriages had been performed long before that — and not always by priests.

    As for Rep. Norton’s bill, that is, indeed, the worst possible “compromise.”

  20. says

    It’s funny that the civil-unions-for-all “solution” only arises when gay couples enter the picture. Why weren’t straight people making this argument years ago? After all, they’ve had this marriage/church thing to deal with for a long long time. What’s changed to suddenly inspire this brilliant light bulb of an idea? Ah, we know …

    The legal rights and responsibilities of marriage of nothing to do with the church, and civil marriage equality already protects religious liberty, so it’s all nonsense, but most nonsensical of all is the idea that straight people are going to buy into having their marriages downgraded. Good luck with that! Get back to us when you’re done.

  21. Karl Winthrop says

    My mother Hates that my brother doesn’t have a christian marriage” because they had the ceremony in a rented hall and didn’t mention god. It was still legal.

  22. Aggravated American says

    We wouldn’t even be having this convoluted clusterfuck if gays weren’t trying to hone in on the institution of marriage in the first place. Once upon a time it was ILLEGAL for people of the same gender to have sex. It isn’t anymore. Can’t you all be happy with that, instead of whining like Jan Brady?

    And I don’t believe for 2 seconds that it would stop at City Hall. That’s just a manipulative snowjob to get it legalized now. it would only a matter of time before they start trying to force churches to do it too. Gays hate being excluded from ANYTHING, so if the law (look at the BSA) so if the law said “churches can reject marrying gay couples,” gays will soon start barking up that tree too!

  23. nzchicago says

    So let’s see: Everyone can get a Civil Union, then you go to your church for a “marriage” so you can get the federal benefits. And gay couples can go to the churches that will perform a same-sex marriage (of which there are several). No problem, everyone gets all the benefits without the state legislators having to have the guts to vote for “gay marriage.” And the only people to lose out on benefits are…atheists! Brilliant.

  24. Bill says

    How about issuing a marriage/civil union license? Then the religious nuts can say (in church) that it is just a civil union and your accountant or lawyer can point to the word “marriage” with regard to tax laws or federal benefits.

    Or, whether it counts as a marriage or civil union depends on a document signed by the person doing the ceremony. If you want a non-religious ceremony to make it a marriage, you should be able to get it, or a religious ceremony from a church/whatnot that supports same-sex marriages.
    If the IRS asks why there is the same license for both, you just say “paperwork reduction – states have the same fiscal issues as the federal government and are trying to cut costs by focusing on trivialities.”

    It’s silly and all just smoke and mirrors, of course, but maybe that’s enough to get the religious nuts to STFU.

  25. says

    Aggravated American: Yes, gods forbid that gays should want to be treated like anyone else. Apparently, we don’t know our place.

    And it occurs to me that leaving “marriage” to churches, without massive changes to federal law, is a violation of the Establishment Clause.

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