Rudy flip-flops on civil unions?

Well, no. He’s gone on record too many times affirming his support for them to credibly oppose them now. But he does seem to have a problem with the particular civil union law that just passed the senate in New Hampshire, for reasons that aren’t clear to Ryan Sager or myself:

In a startling departure from his previously stated position on civil unions, Mayor Giuliani came out to The New York Sun yesterday evening [Cute. — ed.] in opposition to the civil union law just passed by the New Hampshire state Senate.

“Mayor Giuliani believes marriage is between one man and one woman. Domestic partnerships are the appropriate way to ensure that people are treated fairly,” the Giuliani campaign said in a written response to a question from the Sun. “In this specific case the law states same sex civil unions are the equivalent of marriage and recognizes same sex unions from outside states. This goes too far and Mayor Giuliani does not support it.”

Despite Mr. Giuliani’s long history of supporting gay rights — or rather, because of it — yesterday’s statement is likely to lead many observers to question whether the former mayor is concerned that his socially liberal record and positions aren’t flying in the Republican primary. While he still holds a commanding lead in the national polls, he has taken a hit over the last month or so after reiterating his support for the public funding of abortion.

I flatly don’t get that second boldfaced objection. If Rudy supports civil unions, why would he have a problem with recognizing civil unions from out of state? Opponents of gay marriage have raised the out-of-state objection before in a constitutional context, worrying that states that don’t recognize gay marriage or civil unions might be forced to by a federal court under the Full Faith and Credit clause. But that’s not what’s going on here; New Hampshire, in a perfectly federalist manner, is going to recognize them voluntarily. So what’s Rudy’s beef?

As for the first objection, that the law allegedly states that civil unions are “equivalent” to marriage, here’s the text of the bill. The relevant section is section six:

Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, the parties who enter into a civil union pursuant to this chapter shall be entitled to all the rights and subject to all the obligations and responsibilities provided for in state law that apply to parties who are joined together pursuant to RSA 457 [i.e., the state marriage law].

Same rights and responsibilities, but … isn’t that exactly the reason why Rudy supports civil unions? Presumably he wants gay couples to have the same benefits and duties as married couples, but without the privilege of being able to call themselves “married.” That’s the upshot of the domestic partnership law he signed in New York City in 1998. For his spokesman to say that the NH bill goes too far implies that there are some benefits/duties that should be reserved for married people. In which case, what are they?

For the record, here’s Rudy chatting with Sean Hannity about his position on the issue back on February 5th. The part about civil unions comes right at the very beginning, after the short aside about the Brady bill:

FYI, this is the second time recently that Sager, an avowed libertarian, has rattled Rudy’s cage for what he clearly perceives as pandering to social conservatives. The first was a few weeks ago when Giuliani declared his support for state intervention in the Schiavo matter. He’d better ask any other questions he has soon because I’ve got a feeling the campaign’s not going to respond to him for much longer.