Civil Unions and Kissing Cousins
I don’t care what you’ve read here or elsewhere: There’s still some serious discrimination going on in the Land of Lincoln.
No, I’m not talking about poor Governor Rod, whose peers sent him up the river, or poor Governor Ryan, who is still up spit creek and being denied parole. I’m talking about love.
We don’t live in a theocracy, mister. This ain’t the Dark Ages. You should be free to love whomever you want to love. America is about equality. They used to lynch black people at picnics.
As reported in these pages last month, thanks to the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act, a man can union a man, a woman can union a woman, and, just to be fair, a woman can union a man. (The “religious freedom” part means churches, synagogues, mosques, and Indians are free to choose whether or not to solemnize such unions. Illinois is very tolerant.) No, it’s not same-sex “marriage,” according to the state’s Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, for that would be “contrary to the public policy of this State.” You may not use the m-word.
But the fact is, the bill Governor Quinn signed (with the exquisite short title CIV PRO-DEATH OF PARTY) provides that, for all Land of Lincoln purposes, a civil union means “the obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits afforded or recognized by the law of Illinois to spouses.” Furthermore, when it comes to dissolving one of them, CIV PRO-DEATH simply refers the reader or lawyer to the Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, “Sections 401 through 413.”
So close it is in substance to the m-word that CIV PRO-DEATH’s indefatigable author and sponsor, State Rep. Greg “Crocodile Rock” Harris (D-Chicago), says he doesn’t have plans to pursue further “marriage equality” legislation. Bo and Roscoe can union each other, pass on the General Lee or Flash one to the other without a will upon a partner’s death, and visit each other in the Hazzard Co. Hospital, no matter what Uncle Jesse or Boss Hogg says.
But folks, the discrimination has not ended. Because the fact remains that Bo and Luke cannot be together—not the way two of Cupid’s victims of the same or opposite sex can, who don’t suffer from the new Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name. I refer, of course, to cousin incest.
But wait, you say! That’s disgusting. Well, may I remind you that homosexuality was once thought unspeakable? That the day-before-yesterday’s taboos are yesterday’s hot topics on The View and today’s subjects for public-school kindergartners?
Indeed, why do you find it disgusting? Because that’s not your preference? Do you think that, given our puritanical society’s history of discrimination, lynching, and homocide, two male cousins would just choose to be attracted sexually to each other? Are you really going to say to another free, consenting adult that he could just as easily find another member of his own sex who is not a relative to love? Or send him to some brainwashing camp, Ted Haggard style, so they can suppress his natural desire and turn him into a suicidal alcoholic?
It’s shocking, but there it is, in black and white, in this so-called victory legislation for “marriage equality,” under Section 25. “The following civil unions are prohibited: [A] civil union between first cousins.”
So, Bo and Daisy, too.
In fact, for a certain courageous, persecuted minority, this bill is a step backward. Why? Because it’s even more stringent than Illinois law governing . . . marriage! After all, the current m-word statute provides that, while your average first cousins may not marry, they may tie the knot when they turn 50, or if either Bo or Daisy provides “a certificate signed by a licensed physician” confirming that one of them “is permanently and irreversibly sterile.”
But when it comes to civil unions, which give couples the benefits “afforded spouses,” there is no provision, no exception whatsoever, for first cousins—of the same or opposite sex.
Now, the puritans will argue that the marriage law makes sense: We don’t want to burden the state with the mutant offspring of Bo and Daisy. Fine. (Though even that should be enough to tweak the tentacles of a Planned Parenthood apologist, as it ever so subtly suggests that the purpose of marriage, at least before menopause, is the bearing of children.)
But what about Bo and Luke?
I mean, let’s face it, you don’t have to be Richard Dawkins to know that neither of those fruits, er, neither of those trees will bear fruit. So what does it hurt anybody?
That’s just not what a civil union is, you say. That is unnatural. Everyone knows that’s wrong.
Well, may I remind you that Bo and Luke don’t think it’s wrong, nor countless other same-sex cousins who are trembling in their closets, afraid of the lynch mob. And if you say homosexual-cousin incest is unnatural, then what is your standard for “natural”? Reason? Sociology? Yesterday’s consensus on what a “family” should look like? What gives you the right to define marriage, or virtual marriage, as something that excludes first cousins? Tradition? Your claim that truth is objective? Your narrow-minded, historical Christianity?
—Aaron D. Wolf
This article was first published in the September 2011 issue of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture.