Last year in France approximately 140,000 couples entered into civil unions. 92 percent of these couple were straight. When France legalized civil unions in 1999 there were 6000 civil unions and the majority of these were gay. My how things change.
The reason most observers give for these figures is that civil unions are easier to dissolve than France's civil marriages. All marriages and civil unions are state enacted in France. There is no legally recognized religious marriage ceremony.
When France enacted it's civil union legislation the wording was gender neutral. Legislators felt wording the legislation identifying it as for gays only would not pass European Union mandates on discrimination. However, it was precisely to answer gay marriage critics, like the Roman Catholic Church, that the civil union legislation was passed in the first place. Is this an instance where protecting marriage for heterosexuals has resulted in undermining heterosexual marriage? Sure looks like it to me.
This is a classic case of why separate but equal doesn't work to protect heterosexual marriage. As long as civil unions are perceived as being easier to void, they will also appeal to heterosexuals.
I don't know that we're asking the right questions or fighting the right battles. The real question should be 'why don't relationships of any sort, last any more?' Traditionalists will say it's because we have diluted marriage. But it may be that traditional marriages used to last longer because it was a legal hammer to keep lousy relationships in place. Notice I didn't say functional, because many of these long lasting marriages were not functional relationships.
What if the increase in divorce is not only a reflection of a more fluid society but also a reflection of just how many dysfunctional marriages were kept solvent through restrictive divorce laws? If the that's the case, then for the good of a lot of children, we may not want to revisit the past. Forcing two people to maintain a relationship which has become a perpetual hell is not good for anyone.
I've written before that I really believe the issue should be about parenting, not orientation. If we care primarily about the children, and that's why marriage is supposed to exist, then we should actually care about the children and make sure that the relationship producing those children will take care of those obligations no matter the legal status of the relationship itself.
Focusing on the evils of gay marriage does absolutely nothing to ensure that heterosexuals will parent their children. Why focus on supposed non creative relationships if you are all about children. It seems to me that churches should be focusing on issues which contribute to the failure of heterosexual marriage and the children who are caught in the middle of the divorces.
If the statistics about civil unions in France teach us anything it's that the Church's myopic focus on gay marriage has missed the boat entirely. The real boat is that heterosexuals are rejecting traditional marriage, and the real questions should center around why this is happening and what can we do for the children. We may find out that it's much better for traditional heterosexual marriage if gays are allowed into the same traditional boat. Then we might be able to blow away all the smoke and mirrors to finally ask if there might be something fundamentally wrong with the boat.