01/20/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Prop 8 - Instead of Forced Divorce, Why Not Civil Marriages for All?

The news of the Proposition 8 lawsuits came last night as I was addressing my Christmas cards. You know the ritual -- take a photo from the year, mail it to family and friends with holiday greetings. In past cards I've been parasailing, bungee jumping, and skydiving; and now, this year, the biggest "leap" of all -- getting married. My happy if monotonous routine of addressing, stuffing, sealing and stamping was interrupted by news of the latest battles over California's Proposition 8. Now we know that supporters were seeking to affirm the decision to ban same sex marriage, but it wasn't 'til Ken Starr appeared on the TV screen (wearing what appeared to be Jack Abramoff's black hat) that we learned an unsettling truth -- they actually want to go beyond the initiative banning future marriages and forcibly divorce 18,000 couples.

Now being a newlywed myself, I cannot imagine a county or court clerk calling my husband and me to inform us that the state had forcibly divorced us. Yet that's what Proposition 8 proponents now bring to the Supreme Court. Not just upholding a vote taking away "marriage" rights, but undoing a civil contract. So I wonder: instead of forced divorce in California, why not civil unions or civil marriages for all?

Now our Attorney General Jerry Brown fights forced divorce (arguing in part that the initiative was in fact a Constitutional amendment requiring a higher threshold for ballot placement and passage so should be nullified on procedural grounds). And we will be told repeatedly that while Proposition 8 proponents support civil unions for same sex couples, they must force divorce because same sex marriage violates their religious beliefs. That to me sounds like a great argument for rendering civil contract rights unto Caesar and marriage ceremonies unto God. Let loving, consenting adults form civil unions under a common law while clergy perform marriages for some of those couples under the covenants of their faith. Remove the term "marriage' from the civil code entirely, or utilize the term "civil marriage" in the civil code to delineate the rights and responsibilities of the parties to each other and the state . Either way, if this really is not about discrimination, then why not grant heterosexual couples the same rights being proferred for same sex couples?

As your own holiday mail arrives and you see happy loving couples posing in front of Christmas trees or surrounded by snowflakes or lighting menorahs, ask yourself: do you know how or by whom they were married? Does it matter to you that the couple has a civil marriage or a faith marriage? Does your answer change if the couple is gay or straight? In the spirit of the holidays, of peace and goodwill, rather than force divorce on some, why not seek common ground and civil rights for all?