Friday, April 27, 2007

Giuliani on Civil Unions: No Flip Flop... So Far

The New York Sun reports that Mayor Giuliani has come out in opposition to New Hampshire's new civil union law:

"Mayor Giuliani believes marriage is between one man and one woman. Domestic partnerships are the appropriate way to ensure that people are treated fairly," the Giuliani campaign said in a written response to a question from the Sun. "In this specific case the law states same sex civil unions are the equivalent of marriage and recognizes same sex unions from outside states. This goes too far and Mayor Giuliani does not support it."

The Democratic governor of New Hampshire, John Lynch, has said publicly that he will sign the civil union law.

On a February 2004 edition of Fox News's "The O'Reilly Factor," Mr. Giuliani told Bill O'Reilly, when asked if he supported gay marriage, "I'm in favor of … civil unions."

He also said, "Marriage should be reserved for a man and a woman." Asked by Mr. O'Reilly in the interview how he would respond to gay Americans who said being denied access to the institution of marriage violated their rights, Mr. Giuliani said: "That's why you have civil partnerships. So now you have a civil partnership, domestic partnership, civil union, whatever you want to call it, and that takes care of the imbalance, the discrimination, which we shouldn't have." In 1998, as mayor of New York City, Mr. Giuliani signed into law a domestic partnership bill that a gay rights group, the Empire State Pride Agenda, hailed as setting "a new national benchmark for domestic partner recognition."

I don't think this represents a change in position - at least as far as I can see, based on what he said on the O'Reilly Factor. The key lies in the reason the Mayor gives for opposing the new statute - which I've italicized. Note the very significant and deliberate use of the phrase 'in this specific case.'

First, the New Hampshire legislation (text here) seeks to establish civil unions as the 'equivalent of marriage' - whatever that means. Giuliani has said that he favors civil unions as an alternative to marriage. That's a semantic difference, but words mean things. Giuliani may be clarifying his position here, against laws that claim to give civil unions the same status as marriages.

Perhaps more importantly, the New Hampshire legislation might be considered to encourage gay marriages elsewhere, by recognizing gay marriages performed in other states. This could easily justify Giuliani's statement that 'this goes too far.'

Like many other issues currently before the Presidential candidates, we'll have to look for more clarification as to exactly what this means.

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