May 2012: Civil Unions

May 17th is International day against Homophobia and Transphobia and in preparation for a brief interview I was doing for eTV (a South African television channel) I did some trawling on the net to research the day and hopefully find some thought-provoking articles. The search results were dominated mostly by stories on *gay awareness, gay rights, the debate around the gay gene, anti-gay legislation around the world and the inevitable ‘how to cure homosexuality’. But what has always caught my eye and what I want to write about is the idea of gay marriages and the ‘civil union’. No term elicits quite the same reaction for many people as this, except perhaps for ‘apartheid’. Confused? Read on…


Maybe to start with a basic fact of gay marriages: very few countries have legalised gay marriages, these are: Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and South Africa (SA being, I might add, the first country in Africa to legalise same sex marriage and yet another reason why I love this country). In the United States, same-sex marriages are not recognized federally, though same-sex couples can marry in six of the fifty states.

When talking about gay marriage, the terms ‘civil union’ and ‘civil partnership’ are thrown around. These two terms are one and the same thing and refer to a legally
recognised form of partnership similar to marriage. It was introduced in Europe
(Denmark to be exact) in 1989 specifically for same-sex couples, with the purpose
of providing them with rights, benefits, and responsibilities similar to opposite-sex civil marriages.


Proponents extol the virtues of civil unions, and certainly, civil unions offer rights and
protection that same-sex couples might otherwise not have, however what does
its very existence imply? That gay couples will be given similar rights but not the same rights, because that would be asking too much? That gay couples should be
grateful they’re getting that much? Is this really advancing gay rights?  Similar but not the same sounds suspiciously like ‘equal but separate’, the system used during apartheid in South Africa and America (remember separate entrances, ablutions, transport, etc?) and smells like the legal justification for segregation.

Sometimes it sounds as though it is merely a convenient way of skirting around the issue that a basic human right that is being denied.


** the above post is not meant to be academic fare, nor is
it the view of all psychologists or, of course, everyone. The views stated
above are my personal observations

* If you would like more information, here are some useful
websites/organisations to try:

1. Genderdynamix:

2. Family Life Centre (South Africa)

(Being Gay is OK)





Filed under Psychology

4 Responses to May 2012: Civil Unions

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