When I first heard that Maryland Delegate Tiffany Alston wanted to replace marriage with civil unions for all I was hopeful she had a principled reason and that it was an idea that might catch on. I'm still waiting for a state to change the name of the status it grants couples, leaving "marriage" as a religious term or a generic term couples use for themselves. But it soon became clear Del. Alston was not really looking for a way to get the state out of the marriage business. She was just looking for a way to avoid voting for same-sex marriage.
I admire her unwillingness to advocate civil unions only for same-sex couples. She said she did not want to create a discriminatory status for same-sex couples only. But the eve of a vote on a same-sex marriage bill is the wrong time to start talking about changing the name of state licenses. And after her amendment was defeated, Del. Alston voted against allowing same-sex couples to marry. Turned out her vote was unnecessary to pass the bill out of committee. The full House of Delegates is likely to vote next week. The Senate has already passed the bill, and the governor says he will sign it.
So I'm still waiting for a state legislator to seriously propose and push for replacing "marriage" with "civil partnership." "Civil union" would be okay with me, but I prefer "partnership," both for what it says about the relationship and because it has no other association and would not be confused with a status for same-sex couples only.
Hawaii and Illinois have passed civil unions for both same-sex and different-sex couples. It's a start.