When Joe Lieberman was selected as the first Jewish Democratic nominee for Vice President in 2000, at the High Holy Days there was a joke running through the rabbis' sermons (I heard it from two different rabbis)."That rustling sound you heard after Lieberman was selected," the joke went,"was thousands of Rosh Hashanah sermons being torn up...." What you hear tonight is the quiet hum of thousands of bloggers keyboards clicking as the word moves across cyberspace: New Jersey has become the latest state to create a same-sex domestic partnership.
There are a few other sounds you might hear in the distance: joyous noisemaking in gay and lesbian hangouts; quiet, knowing smiles in Republican Party operatives' offices; real estate website servers groaning as New York gay couples consider their options; rustling of Sunday sermons being thrown out and rewritten in churches all over the country; giggles as family law specialists pore over the new legislation, looking for all the new competing claims (but there's no right to property after breakup, so divorce lawyers are quietly nursing a little extra scotch); weeping and wailing in state benefits offices, as they are now required to offer"spousal" benefits to state employees (but private corporations are exempt).
And there was the whirring of constitutional lawyers on the right sharpening their pencils, because they are going to challenge the law on the grounds that it gives a new privilege, this limited partnership, to homosexuals but not to heterosexuals (I'm not making this up, it's near the bottom) under age 62.
Yes, heterosexual couples age 62 and over can also form these limited unions. This is a very interesting thing, particularly with the baby boom/sexual revolution generation approaching 60. The limited nature of the partnership might make it possible for a new relationship to be functionally recognized at a late age without the descendants feeling their inheritances threatened; could cut down on the competency hearing caseload.
One in ten states, representing about one-sixth of the US population, now recognize some form of gay marriage. The world is changing (the world is always changing), and I think it's for the better.