Civil unions ‘not exactly golden ring’

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For Scott Strong and T.J. Sullivan, their relationship is already very real.

And while some same-sex couples rushed to usher in Colorado’s Civil Union Act with midnight ceremonies, the self-described “40-somethings” went quietly about their lives in suburban Aurora.

“First of all, that kind of stuff is just way past our bedtime,” joked Sullivan. “And while we don’t want to take away from civil unions’ awesomeness, it’s just not something for us.”

Although the new state law treats civil union partners, in nearly all respects, like married people, parties to a civil union are still denied many rights afforded by those in heterosexual marriages.

For that reason, Strong and Sullivan have taken a firm stance to wait for full marriage equality at the federal level.

“For example, simple things like filing a joint income tax return or receiving certain Social Security benefits are still denied,” Strong said. “And then, there’s other things, like portability — a civil union here in our state doesn’t necessarily mean anything in another.”

Sullivan went on to say that while civil unions are a step in the right direction; they are “not exactly the golden ring” that many same-sex couples seek.

Civil unions are more a political compromise, according to Strong, pacifying those who were not ready for same-sex couples to marry.

“It’s kind of a whole messy situation,” Sullivan added. “Civil unions, unlike marriages, still have to be explained.”

He said federal laws still codify him and Strong as second-class, and that until those laws are repealed, civil unions do nothing to change it.

Sullivan was referring 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law being weighed by the nation’s Supreme Court.

DOMA, as it is known, restricts federal marriage benefits and interstate marriage recognition to those in opposite-sex marriages.

“For us, if DOMA falls, that is the greater prize,” said Sullivan, who says it will be nice when the government catches up “with our real lives.”

So until then, Strong and Sullivan will wait.

“In some ways I have to applaud the state, but it doesn't feel right to celebrate just yet,” Sullivan said. “It’s like celebrating a victory when we’re only two-thirds of the way through the race. We’ve still got a third of the way to go.”