Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bill 138 - Guam's first foray into civil unions

The moral issue aside, Bill 138 is problematic for several reasons: lack of substantiating data, faulty reasoning, erroneous claims to rights, discrimination on several counts, and useless language.

Lack of data
The bill claims that "there exists on Guam a large group of disaffected persons". No research is quoted to substantiate the claim. The "large group" is simply the author's conjecture.

Faulty reasoning
The Bill appeals to "recent rulings allowing gay marriages in Massachusetts and Connecticut" and then apparently its author deduces that two states out of fifty is reason enough to declare that it is now time for Guam to "afford its sizeable number of same sex couples" the right to enter into a similar union. Two out of fifty is hardly an argument. (And again no data substantiating "sizeable" is referenced.)

Erroneous claim to rights
The bill claims that these "disaffected persons" are denied "one of the most basic rights ever given to law abiding citizens: the right to enter into a marriage."

Marriage is not a basic right. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are basic rights in the United States. While marriage might make you happy, you don't automatically have a right to it. First, marriage requires that there is someone else who wants to marry you, thus negating any claim to a "basic right. Second, marriage is subject to laws governing such things as minimum age, freedom to marry (not already married), and blood relations. Marriage is also subject to the personal objections of those who believe there is good cause for a couple not to marry, thus the famous phrase still used in some marriage ceremonies: "If anyone objects to this marriage speak now or forever hold your peace". And by the way, one does not have to be a "law abiding citizen" to marry as prison marriages will evince.

For a Bill that builds upon a claim to equal rights, the following issues certainly seem inconsistent if not discriminatory:

Waiting period: The bill requires that a "couple wishing to enter into such a union must have resided on Guam for a period of five consecutive years". Heterosexual couples only have to be on Guam for 5 days.

Residency: The bill requires these couples to "have their own private residence in the Territory". What about homosexuals who can't afford a private residence? There is no such requirement for heterosexuals.

Citizenship:The bill requires proof of American citizenship for couples desiring civil union. Heterosexuals do not have to be U.S. citizens to get married in Guam. The same for the Social Security number requirement.

Age: The Bill allows for a minimum age of 17 years with parental consent and a court order, however, the minimum age for heterosexual minors to marry is 16 and a female may be as young as 14 (with appropriate permissions).

Useless language
The Bill claims in its Findings and Intent that such unions will not be "recognized as a marriage" but later claims that religious denominations will not be forced to officiate at the ceremony. Since the Bill claims to only advance legislation regarding civil unions and not gay marriage, how is it that a religious denomination would even be involved? Religious denominations may perform a marriage ceremony but are not authorized to grant a marriage license nor a license for a civil union.

I am surprised that Senator Cruz, normally a careful and exacting legislator, allowed this Bill to be introduced under his name.
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