Thursday, June 12, 2008

March Towards Equality Shuffle: 2 Steps Forward, 1 Step Back

Happy news item number 1: Massachusetts's State Maternity Act will now apply to fathers too! According to Feminist Law Professors:
This change means that employers in Massachusetts must now offer both mothers and fathers 8 weeks of unpaid leave following the birth or adoption of a child. It appears that much of the decision was prompted by the state having same-sex marriage and the Commission determining how to rectify the problem that a lesbian couple would have, under the statute, two parents eligible for leave but a gay male couple would have no parents eligible. Interpreting the law as sex-neutral solves this problem.
This news is naturally good for gay parents in Massachusetts, yet it will help straight couples just as much. The weeks following the birth or adoption of a child, while often very joyful, can naturally be a very stressful period as well. When mothers are the only ones given leave from work during this time, they must bear most of the initial burdens of parenthood alone. The women-only parental leave system also"perpetuate[s] sex- and gender-based hierarchy within marriage," since it establishes that care of children will fall mainly to the mother - regardless of whether or not she works. So, yeah Massachusetts for making parenting more equal for everyone! This will improve the lives of lesbians and gays, and, more generally, of women and men. This is a great example of how interconnected we all are, and why feminism should be concerned with LGBT issues.

Happy news 2: As you might have heard, California's State Supreme Court has ruled to allow gay and lesbian couples to wed, and "[t]he ruling takes effect, and the weddings begin, on June 16 at 5 p.m." That's just four days away, guys! I think lots of congratulations are going to be in order!

Sad news: Of course, you had to know that some people who stand to loose ... well, nothing from allowing other love-birds to tie the knot are again making a stink:

County officials in at least two California counties say they'll stop performing all wedding ceremonies by next week, arguing that they don't have enough resources to marry both gay and straight couples.

Officials in Kern and Butte counties cited budget and staffing constraints as the rationale for halting the ceremonies. But clerks in other counties say that claim is specious. Some activists went further, arguing that the decision to stop the ceremonies amounts to poorly disguised discrimination against gay and lesbian couples.

County clerks are required by law to issue marriage licenses, but the offices do not have to perform wedding ceremonies. The recent state Supreme Court decision allowing same-sex marriages takes effect after the business day on Monday.

In Kern County, Clerk Ann Barnett announced her decision only after county lawyers told her she could not refuse to marry gay couples.

Really, guys, it isn't that the good people of Kern and Butte are bigots! They just don't have the resources to marry both straight and gay couples... I mean, with all that stamping of official documents, and ... well, that's about it. But it's hard. Come to think of it, the county clerks really should be allowed to choose who gets to wed, since they have to do all the filing and stamping... it's only fair!

(photo via The Guardian)

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