In the aftermath of the passage of Proposition 8, the focus on marriage equality seems to be primarily taking place at the state level. Massachusetts and Connecticut, of course, already have full marriage equality. Legislatures in New York and New Jersey are expected to see legislation to create marriage equality will be introduced next year, and both governors have stated they will sign that legislation if it passes, as it is likely to do. The Supreme Court of Iowa will hear arguments December 9 in the case that will determine whether marriage equality will become the law in that state. Cases have been filed here in California to overturn Proposition 8 on various grounds.
But what if the place to start is at the top? What if, instead of focusing on state battles -- whether legal or electoral -- we turn our attention as a community on achieving equality on the federal level? After all, even Sarah Palin agreed gay people deserve full civil equality.
Here's what I could see: Congress passes a law which creates a new Federal-level civil union. All people who are currently legally married would be grandfathered in and continue to receive all 1049 federal benefits that apply to married couples, including those pertaining to taxation, Social Security and immigration. Everyone else who wanted to take advantage of those benefits would, as of a specific date, have to obtain a civil union license. These could be made available through federal agencies -- or perhaps states and counties could be empowered to issue the licenses.
Now, in order to get Federal benefits of marriage, every couple -- straight and gay -- must first obtain a Federal civil union. To get the state-level benefits of marriage, they need to obtain a state marriage license. If they don't live in a state with marriage equality, gay couples would have to go without those benefits. Straight couples would have to get a state marriage license to go with their FCU. Most gay couples would have to suffer along with the federal benefits only. It's an imperfect system. But it would be a major step toward equality.
And with civil equality in place at a federal level, individual states would likely begin to fall in line and extend equality there, as well. Mississipi and Utah might ultimately need some Supreme Court convincing to come around, but ultimately equality is going to win. Marriage might end up being a word with primarily religious connotations, but that's fine. As long as we are all treated identically under civil law, God can do whatever He wants. (Like there was any stopping Him, right believers?)