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Commentary

Civil Rites vs. Religious Rites

March 27, 2004

Re "Marriage Is a Misstep for Gay Rights," Commentary, March 22: Imagine my surprise when I read that marriage should be done away with because people like me want in! Apparently Alexander Cockburn doesn't want to belong to Western civilization, but I do.

I was raised in a strong and spiritual family, and I believe in the sanctity of family. I also believe that my partner and I should be allowed by our state and country to make the same choices, wise or not, that all the other adult members of our families are permitted to make. Civil marriage, with or without religious rites, strengthens families. Marriage has always been a part of the American dream. Shouldn't all families, whatever their makeup, have the right to partake of the protections and the joys of that dream?

Jane Drucker

North Hollywood

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Bravo to Cockburn. At what point did we go from bohemian to bourgeois? When did we forget our singular roles as individuals able to live richly and uniquely outside of the hypocritical norms of American society? Why the need to imitate the rituals and routines of the average heterosexual? How boring it has all become, this quest for "normalcy" in a world where normal equals dull.

Of course, it is all driven by the financial goals of those who want to be as middle as middle class can be and by the inability of some to accept themselves without the trappings of acceptability: marriage, children, a white-picket fence and, at the end of it all, adjoining plots in a respectable graveyard. Let's hear it for those gay men and women who can live without society's sanctions, happy in our lives, freed from the chains of orthodoxy and assimilation.

Tom Rosenberger

Los Angeles

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The Vermont civil unions that Cockburn applauds are identical to marriage in every aspect except that they carry a different name and they are not recognized by any other state or the federal government. If marriage is so odious to Cockburn, how does joining an institution that is virtually identical to marriage achieve "liberation" for the lesbian and gay community?

Duncan Osborne

Brooklyn, N.Y.

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Rather than fight the Jerry Falwells, the Pat Robertsons, the Pope John Paul IIs or the Bushites, a better alternative for us all is to put the sacredness of marriage in the same realm as "if you want Communion, go to your church": civil unions for all, sanctioned by the states, recognized by the federal government -- all 1,000-plus rights and responsibilities currently available. Marriage would be a church ritual only, performed by the churches for those members who meet their rules.

Some couples might want only a civil union (young, old, straight, gay); others (primarily the elderly not wanting to lose benefits) might want only a church-sanctioned relationship. Such an idea takes the wind out of the anti-gay marriage blowhards' sails while giving any and all the same benefits.

William Cinnamon III

North Hollywood

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We've heard in the last few weeks the charge that the federal marriage amendment, which would define marriage in the Constitution as the union of one man and one woman, would write discrimination into our country's founding document. Don't believe it for a second. The Constitution is going to be altered one way or the other. Either that change will come from unelected, unaccountable judges intent on creating a right of homosexual couples to marry or it will come from the American people, through this amendment, to preserve marriage as it has served society for millenniums.

Amendment supporters have been disparaged as "bigots." How can that be, when the language being proposed is identical to the language of the Defense of Marriage Act, passed by 342 members of Congress? Are they -- and former President Clinton, who signed the bill into law -- bigots too? This aggressive campaign to undermine marriage as it's always been known can be defeated, but only if we all stand up to support the federal marriage amendment.

Robert J. Martin III

Salida, Calif.

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