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Commitment ceremonies & weddings

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POSTED December 26, 2009 1:56 a.m.
A couple deciding to make a lifetime commitment to each other is news in any community. Engagement announcements routinely grace the pages of the Manteca Bulletin as do those for births, weddings, and anniversaries.

But what if that couple is same-sex? How do they share their milestone with the community?

One such couple submitted a wedding announcement that the Bulletin ran on Dec. 18 under the heading of “commitment.” The couple is planning a commitment ceremony in May at Chez Shari at the Manteca Golf Course. Their announcement included parents, family members, their education, and employment just like any other engagement announcement.

The decision to run the commitment announcement brought two sharp criticisms. One, from the couple, that was upset because we opted not to use the word “wedding.” The other wasn’t thrilled that it appeared next to an anniversary announcement.

The State of California does not recognize same-sex marriages except for those that were licensed for a brief period between the time of the California Supreme Court decision legalizing them and passage of Proposition 8 that defined a marriage as being between a man and a woman. That is why we have opted to refer to the joining of a same-sex couple as a “commitment” and not a wedding. In retrospect, it should have been referred to as an engagement as the announcement after the ceremonies would be more appropriately referred to as a “commitment.”

Having a commitment announcement appearing on the same page as a story about an anniversary, engagement or a wedding does not downplay or take away from those other events.

Gays are a part of the community fabric of Manteca. They work in healthcare, they work in our schools, they work in public safety, they run businesses, and they work in government. They basically are no different than anyone else with the one exception - their sexual orientation.

One person said running the commitment means the Bulletin is “condoning it.” There is nothing illegal about being gay nor is there anything illegal about entering into a lifetime commitment.

Eighteen years ago, uproar was caused when the Bulletin ran a photo of a newborn with only the name of the mother. The general argument was that we were condoning “illegitimate” births.

The situation is similar in terms of the law and community norms. Children born out of wedlock are extended the same rights by the state- including an expectation of father support – as those born to a married couple.

As for the community, a birth of a child is still news just as couples joining together is news.

Even though such commitments aren’t recognized by the state with the conferring of an official pronouncement, most of the secular legal responsibilities that it implies are. Same sex couples can also adopt children just as opposite sex couples can who are not legally married. It can be argued that same-sex couples aren’t much different than those of opposite sex who for whatever reason opted not to legally marry. They can still get sued when a split happens for “palimony” and can establish most of the same legal rights that marred couples do through legal documents such as for estate planning and power of attorney for health care. Granted, in a state-sanctioned marriage the legal lines are clearer while some things are automatic.

In short, it is not against the law to live together in California and the state confers many of the same rights on same-sex couples living together such as the ability to adopt as they do on married couples.

On legal grounds, there is nothing wrong with same-sex couples.

As for the community, it is clear that it is accepted although to varying degrees.

That said there is no justification to exclude the celebration of milestones in a gay Manteca resident’s life.

Some may disagree with the entire concept and that’s their right.

The Manteca Bulletin is simply reflecting the community that we cover.
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