A Gay Marriage Solution Whose Time May Soon Be Upon Us

by Kyle Moore

This may come as a surprise, but I’m not exactly prone to confrontation.  While it would not be an overstatement to describe me as a partisan, I don’t really enjoy the time honored practice of screaming myself blue in the face trying to change the mind of someone whom I know will remain rigid in their opinion.  I find that compromises and solutions are a far more valuable expenditure of one’s time.

And, interestingly enough, in most arguments it is where an impasse has been achieved that solutions can actually be found.  It would seem antithetical, but perhaps it is the solid ground that is provided from knowing both sides of an argument will never budge that opens up a path to compromise.

Let’s take abortion for example.  The Clintonian legal, safe, and rare doctrine strikes me as a thoroughly reasonable compromise that takes into account the impasse that exists between the polarized sides of the abortion debate.  Granted, the front line soldiers and extremes of the polarization may never come to look to fondly upon the doctrine, but the doctrine has been a solution for the middle of the roaders.

When we look at the abortion debate, the impasse is clear; pro-lifers are driven through the morality of protecting the rights of the unborn while the pro-choicers are driven by the morality of protecting the rights of women over their own reproductive systems.  It is the fact that both sides are driven by chief overriding moralities that are, at least in this situation, directly at odds with each other that makes it such a difficult issue to come to agreement upon by the most invested participants.

But once you realize that an impasse exists you can first come to the understanding that you will never convince a pro-lifer that the rights of the woman supercedes those of the unborn child, nor the pro-choicer that the rights of the unborn should be used to inhibit the rights of the woman.  There is pathos involved here, with viewpoints shaped by personal belief structures (ie. one of the sticking points in this argument would be the question of where is the line of demarcation that dictates when life begins.  Pro-lifers tend to believe that life begins either at conception, or somewhere between conception and birth, while most pro-choicers probably tend to believe that birth creates a nice and neat definition for the beginning of life).

So making a large shift in the psyche of many people who believe that life begins at conception, or that a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her own body is a futile process.  Knowing this allows us to essentially give up on that approach and start asking different questions, questions such as: does anyone think that abortions are awesome?

Ah, that would be a very interesting question indeed because while pro-choicers will defend the right for a woman to choose relentlessly, you would be hard pressed to find any who feel that the act of abortion itself is a good thing.  Pro-choicers aren’t in love with abortions, they just feel as though they are a necessary right (the belief is far more complex than this, of course, but I’m truncating just a bit here).

In truth, pro-choicers don’t like abortion much more than pro-lifers, and I have yet to meet a single one that loves abortion.  Indeed, contrary to what their detractors would have you believe, pro-choicers don’t get together and have abortion parties.  They don’t get together and have orgies for the sole purpose of impregnating a bunch of women just so they can go and have abortions.

And this is where we find the heart of the legal, safe and rare doctrine.  Most pro-choicers want to see abortions reduced, so long as the right to make a choice about abortion is itself not reduced.  It’s a subtle variation, but it opens avenues of compromise between more moderate members of the opposing camps.  We can now look at factors that ultimately lead to abortion and address those.  Pro-lifers are happy because abortions start to go down, and pro-choicers are happy because they still see that the right of the woman to make choices regarding her own reproductive system remain in tact.

Win-win.

And so it is with this spirit in mind that I turn to the gay marriage debate, one that has interested me for a long time, was in fact the spark that drove me into interest in politics, and is a debate in which I have a personal interest.

My little brother is gay, and I remember my initial reaction to when the Supreme Court in California decision to allow gay marriage finally came down.  I wanted to call him up and say, “Dude!  Get married now while you got the chance!”

The history of the homosexual community in American society has been an interesting one.  There has been light years of progress in the acceptance of and normalization of attitudes towards the homosexual community in just the past two or three decades.  We mock Iranian President Mahmoud Ahminejad for his either naive or intentionally ignorant claim that Iran has no homosexuals, but it wasn’t that long ago when someone making the same statement in America would not have been out of line.

But if we were to look at the macroscopic trends we see something very intriguing.  Over the past thirty years there has been a significant rush in the assimilation of homosexuality into mainstream American culture.  This is itself debatable but I think it coincides much with the AIDS epidemic of the eighties when the homosexual community was thrust unfortunately into the spotlight (a very negative spotlight).

It would seem that what was at one time referred to as the “Gay Plague” acted as a catalyst for the indoctrination of the GLBT community leading to today where in much of America homosexuality is hardly anything to blink at.  One of the leading evening cable news personalities is openly gay, something that would have been almost unthinkable back in the eighties.  Now it’s just a footnote in the story of her success.

But at the same time where social acceptance of homosexuality would appear to be at an all time high, what has also been at an all time high has been a public backlash against this social acceptance.  In 1985, it would have been unheard for openly gay people to serve in any number of capacities, but it would have been equally unheard of for there to be a serious attempt to ban homosexual marriage.

Now, before I progress, I must divulge a suspicion of mine.  I have never gotten over the belief that many oppose gay marriage just because they think that gay sex is “yucky”.  But whatever.

The true driving power behind the anti-gay marriage movement resides in a community with many names.  For the sake of simplicity I’ll return to the tried and true Religious Right (and the Religious Right’s red headed stepchildren, the Mormons).

Couching their anti-gay agenda in Christian dogma, the Religious Right has been successful in essentially swimming up stream against the march towards equality for homosexuals.  While homosexuality is enjoying more social acceptance now than during any other period in American history, the Religious Right is also enjoying successes in actively inhibiting homosexual rights, enacting constitutional gay marriage bans in a number of states.

This would seem counter-intuitive at first, after all, if gays are moving up in the world, how is it that they are suffering setbacks on things like their right to marry?  My co blogger at Comments From Left Field, Sylvia, does an excellent job in tackling this question, pointing out that one of the failings of the homosexual community is its lack of political capabilities.  Liberals in general tend to get in their own way politically, and the GLBT community would be no different.

Couple this with the fact that they faced off against the Mormons, a particularly potent offshoot of the Religious Right, and it becomes extremely conceivable that gays could lose the marriage battle even in California.  Let it be known that the Religious Right, say what you will about it, knows politics.

But there still exists this unignorable truth; despite the pushback, the march towards homosexual equality still moves at a healthy clip.  Polling shows us another interesting and vital aspect to take into account: as of right now, the pros and cons of same sex marriage are fiercely divided, but the younger the generation, the more in favor of legal same sex marriage(lots of good polling data here).

What does this tell us?  Making gay marriage legal may not be doable right now due to a combination of a lack of political ability on the pro gay marriage side, a surplus of political aptitude on the anti-gay marriage side, and a fiercely divided electorate (do the math, and gay marriage loses more often than it wins).  But gay marriage will be legal sometime in the not too distant future if by no other method than attrition.

And finally the impasse is starting to take shape, one that could fast track equality for homosexuals.  The chief anti-gay marriage argument is the belief that the sanctity of marriage must be protected.  The argument for is the belief that homosexuals are deserving of all the rights that any other American enjoys.

You will not be able to change the minds of either side.

But we can ask a different question.  What makes a marriage sacred?  That answer is different for many people.  People of faith are likely to reply that the sanctity of their marriage is divined from the authority of their God.  For those who are without faith, they are more apt to say that the sanctity of the marriage resides in the marriage itself, and the common union between the two partners involved.  Further, of the faithful, the devout churchgoers may say that their unity is blessed by their God through their church, while those who are of faith but skeptical of organized religion may decide that the church does not bestow that happy blessing, but God gives it to them anyway.

The point that I’m getting at is that in a country where everyone is free to choose what they believe, the sanctity of marriage is something that is not universal, but is instead unique to the situation.  I have a coworker that feels that God blesses both his marriage and mine.  I personally believe that God has nothing to do with it, and the sanctity of my marriage comes from the fact that my wife and I are stubbornly attached to each other.

The solution?  Simple.  Abolish all marriage.

I know, it’s a whacky solution.  I’ve long been in favor of this solution, but have never put much heart into it because in a society that has been doing the same thing for over two hundred years, such a dramatic change would seem utterly unfeasible.  But we are entering into a stage in our shared history where there could be a window available for a solution so radical.

As I said before, gay marriage will one day be legal unless the trends of our society undergo an unprecedented shift of momentum.  I don’t think that the political power centers of the religious community are ignorant of this, and in fact it would seem as though the huge anti-same sex marriage push is part of a last ditch effort to fight the changing of the times, one final attempt to exert the force of the church.

But we are rapidly coming to a crossroads where the Religious Right will have to make a choice, concede defeat, or find an alternative solution to protect its own domain.  This dovetails quite nicely with the argument for the wall between church and state.

You see, I don’t like arguing my point of view with other people, it’s worthless.  Why on earth would I tell someone I want religion out of government because I don’t want to pray?  That’s not going to change minds.  So when I argue church and state with someone who believes that God should play a bigger role in our governance, I don’t argue my viewpoint, I argue from theirs.

Why, I would posit, would you want the church in government?  What happens if it’s not your church?  You’re catholic, but what if the official church of the land is protestant?  How would that affect your own personal relationship with God and government?  The wall between church and state does not, I would conclude after producing more convincing arguments, just those without faith, but those with faith as well.  It protects your right to worship your God as you see fit, with the version of the bible that you think is the true bible of God, in the Church that you think practices the right faith, and the observances that provide you with a spiritually fulfilled life.

This is, of course, a very truncated argument, but it has served me well in the past.  The argument to do away with government sanctioned marriage is similar.  What role does government have in determining the sanctity of marriage?  And as we enter an era in which the government could soon determine that homosexuals are deserving of the legal right to be married, how does that fit in with your Church’s views?

Because, in the end, the sanctity of a marriage is between the couple engaged in the marriage, and their church should they belong to one.  There are churches that recognize gay marriages, and some that don’t, and there are marriages and relationships in which the sanctity of that union exists solely between those involved.  It strikes me as odd that the government has a role in any of this, to decide if two people truly love each other, and that that love should be ordained by some celestial blessing.

It is fully within the confines of the government to determine that people who are essentially partners in life should enjoy certain benefits such as tax breaks, and hosptal visits, but the only way to protect marriage for everyone is to see to it that the government not be the entity that defines what marriage is.

It’s not an original idea.  I don’t know where I got it, or if it just kind of popped into my head and I found over the years that other people were in agreement with me, but there it is.  Being the hardliner on the wall between church and state, this has virtually always been my opinion but it is likely to gain political viability because it could be the last defense some churches have at their disposal to protect themselves against what they see as the gay menace.

Anyway, those are my thoughts, what are yours?

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17 thoughts on “A Gay Marriage Solution Whose Time May Soon Be Upon Us

  1. This is actually a familiar argument — Just have the government issue state mandated “civil unions” for everyone and then churches are free to marry if they wish.

    The problem is that people don’t want to be ‘civilly united’, they want to be married, and marriage is a word with power and history behind it. In the end, you’re still denying gay people the one thing they want — The right to be married. It’s not about rights, protections, all of that in the end. It’s about that basic recognition, of that station, and of the power behind that word.

    The abolishment angle is equal, yes, but it achieves it only by making everyone equally unhappy. It’s not a good solution.

    There is a simple, and good solution: Allow gay people to be married. And I still say it’s the only good solution.

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  2. I went to the trouble to look up the definition of sanctity, a word you use many many times – sanctity of marriage.

    1: holiness of life and character : godliness
    2: the quality or state of being holy or sacred: sacred objects, obligations, or rights

    Sounds to me like church business.

    Civil law should content itself with civil matters.

    Religious law should content itself with religious matters.

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  3. I’m not saying that gay people wouldn’t be allowed to get married. Under this argument, they would be, because the government doesn’t decide what marriage is.

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  4. That’s a sticking point, isn’t it? The thing about the Religious Right is that it doesn’t seem to stop to consider that even if Christianity were to become the official ruling religion, which sect of Christianity would dominate?

    And this reminded me of the Catholic and Protestant street fights that occured at the turn of the twentieth century over which version of the Bible should be read in schools. It’s as though no one stops to think that the way they practice Christianity may not be the way other Christians practice it. With the idea of abolishing marriage as a government sanctioned act, in my mind it kills two birds with one stone. It removes the government from what is effectively a religious endeavor (or decidely non religious endeavor), while at the same time granting homosexuals the exact same rights as non homosexuals. As a further bonus, this allows churches to move at their own speed. Some churches have proven to be very progressive in their acceptance of alternative and minority communities, whilst others tend to not be so quick on the uptake. And if you neither want nor need a church to decide you are married, then you are married.

    Funnily enough, being the liberal that I am this strikes me as a very conservative approach to the problem. My little brother doesn’t need a church or the government to tell him he’s married should he find that someone special. Conversely, I’ve known a few heterosexuals who have gotten married not out of love, but solely for financial benefits–how is that a sanct marriage?

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  5. “Funnily enough, being the liberal that I am this strikes me as a very conservative approach to the problem.”

    I don’t want to go deep into the woods with this, but classical conservative thought has little to do with the truly loathsome conservative impostor parading as the Religious Right.

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  6. To me, it remains a problematic solution.

    For the purists, you’ve just destroyed marriage as they want it.
    For those who want progress, you’ve created a half-way point and not the full article. These people have the right to be _married_. Full stop.

    Taking it out of the state’s hands doesn’t go far enough. Churches may block. Yes, some may marry gay people. Many, probably most, won’t.

    Gay people should have the right to be married and the easy means to do so. The best way to ensure this is to let the government continue to give out marriage certificates and give them to anyone who wants one.

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  7. I’d just as soon have a civil union. The term marriage has been kind of overdone and gone through the ringer. I’d say, let anyone that still wants one have it. If you can get the same thing under a different name, sign me up. Look at the marriage rates in Quebec. If people are given options, it’s not a sure thing that marriage would be the choice.

    There are segments in the religious right that very much need everyone else to subscribe to their truth, as they see it from the Amen Pew.

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  8. So, here’s the thing. You are right, and one thinks instantly that a good compromise is a compromise where both sides walk away unhappy, but as I mention in the post, this is fast tracking the whole process.

    I said I believe that gay marriage will be legalized in full, but it won’t happen now. The political climate simply won’t support it–anti-same sex marriage groups are too politically powerful and clever, pro-same sex marriage groups are not, and the general demographics and polls don’t support it.

    This is a fast track solution because while it may not be happy for the Religious Right, it gives them the ability to protect whatever little corner of anti-gay religiosity they cling to.

    You see, part of this argument developed for me when a friend and I were discussing it. I said, yeah, gay marriage will happen, but it will take time. He said, yeah, he understands, but he could also understand that the perspective from a homosexual may be different. He could understand not being happy with waiting, and that stuck with me.

    My prime political occupation is in observing and analyzing the political climate. That’s my passion. And I know that we’re looking at a minimum of fifteen years before the political climate would support legalized gay marriage, probably thirty if you don’t want to risk a significant and dreadful backlash.

    So this is the compromise. You could wait for the political reality to catch up to moral reality, or you could equality within, I would say, the next five to ten years.

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  9. One of the things you have to realize, Kyle, is that the drive for same-sex marriage isn’t an end in and of itself. For the LGBT community, it is the next waypoint on the path to full acceptance. Many who don’t want full acceptance understand this and that is why they are fighting tooth and nail. Both sides know what the next steps would be.

    Let’s say we take your compromise. What happens to Catholic adoption services? Do they now have to accept same-sex couples as potential parents? What about private companies, like wedding photographers? Is it now discrimination if they refuse to cater to same-sex couples? The LGBT movement sees themselves as being analogous to the civil rights movement, so you can bet their answers to this will be yes. Even getting your compromise would be enough to shift momentum – legally, at least – into their favor and get things rolling to the places they really want to go.

    A caveat that as you mentioned about the abortion debate, these are the (somewhat) extreme ends of both sides fighting. When I talk about the LGBT movement, I do not mean all homosexuals nor do I mean all Christians when I speak of their opponents.

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  10. Chad: Can you have an adoption agency that won’t provide service to Catholics?

    Compromise can be a good thing. Without it you may find the tide turns faster against you. There may come a time when the religious are more vulnerable. They may wish to tap into good will that is currently evaporating.

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  11. I agree with you Kyle on the concept of compromise on the LGBT Marriage Issue. There are too many Lgbt’s who cannot, and should not, have to “wait” to live as any other American. I came up with the concept of Lgbt’s being “Civilly-Wed” (www.civillywedd.com) in the year 2000 after losing my former partner and everything that we lived and worked for, without legal protection. The future is now and the younger generations are salient to secure LGBT Marriage without a doubt.

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  12. “Chad: Can you have an adoption agency that won’t provide service to Catholics? ”

    No, you cannot. My point is that the desire of the LGBT community is to be accorded the same rights and protections as a Catholic would have. It doesn’t end with marriage or civil unions. I’m not arguing for one side or the other, I’m pointing out that this isn’t actually a compromise because its actually a battle in a war, not a end in of itself. The arguments you hear about “the sanctity of marriage” is all so much rhetorical parrying to keep from losing this pivotal battle. The overarching goal of the anti-same-sex marriage/civil union side is to keep homosexuality from becoming a fully acceptable way of being in society.

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  13. Actually, you can have an adoption agency that won’t provide services to Catholics. These do exist. Of course, they don’t act as state adoption providers.

    Let’s say that a Pastafarian has to give her child up for adoption, but wants her baby raised in a Pastafarian home. She can contact a Pastafarian adoption agency. Unlike Catholic Charities, it won’t be acting as a subcontractor for the state, so it can turn away those who don’t believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Of if they’re a pirate.

    More seriously, we need to get clergy out of the marriage business. We let them fill out some government forms and now they think they own the place. Marriage sanctified? Tell that to a couple of atheists who had a legal marriage by a justice of the peace.

    Marriage is a legal contract that makes family ties. We have a whole body of law set up to solve family problems (hint, it’s called “family law”). Someone said to me recently that the Goodridges are probably sorry they got married. I’m sorry they’re divorcing, but the divorce laws will probably allow them an easier separation than if the law treated them as roommates (as it did when they sued the Commonwealth of Massachusetts).

    I worry that one day I’m going to read that some local clergy is blessing new drivers because then I’m going to have to worry about when they come after my drivers license.

    Marriage is a legal construct. Clergy bless the marriage, but when they sign the license, they are acting as an agent of the state.

    Let’s get the clergy out of the marriage business. That strikes me as a possibly helpful step to resolving the wars over marriage.

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  14. Sir, In 1985 there was no movement to ban homosexual marriage because no one in all human history up to that time had ever suggested such a thing! The asininity of people coming along now and saying all human cultures and religions have been wrong for 50,000 years (and we Christians did not invent the idea that marriage is between a man and a woman, so don’t go blaming us for it); that arrogance is ultimately a far greater sin than sodomy as such.

    That said, I oppose your solution with a lot less vigor than I oppose legal same sex marriage. I’m a good Calvinist Protestant, but one thing the Catholics were more right about than the Protestants was taking a stand on canon law about divorce and remarriage rather than simply ratifying state divorce and remarriage automatically. If marriage is disestablished, the Protestant classical Church will have to face the question of canon law regarding marriage and divorce as well as the sex of two people getting married. So one cheer.

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  15. Heat is mistaken. The story of same-sex marriage in America goes back to 1970. No fooling. That’s when Richard Baker and James McConnell tried to get a marriage license. We’re coming up on the fortieth anniversary. By 1985, there were bans on same-sex marriage in several states and the attempt to gain marriage equality went on the back burner for a while.

    As for whether marriage has always been a man and a woman (or even a man and some women), that’s not right either. There are several societies with traditions of same-sex marriages. And there have been people who have done it on the sly (in the court of Louis XIV, his brother lead a group of aristocratic gay men who had clandestine extra-legal male marriage ceremonies where they repudiated their wives as false relationships).

    I was reading recently about some writings from the early Roman empire that seem to indicate that men were joined as married partners in some sort of ceremony.

    So, same-sex marriage might be a bit older (about 40 years? much older?) than you think.

    My proposal wasn’t to prevent clergy from blessing marriages. That’s a religious freedom issue and not mine to touch. It was to separate religion and state and no longer have clergy filling out government documents. Leave the spiritual side to them.

    A legal marriage license is a government document. They file them in government buildings not churches. When you get a marriage license, you could get married on the spot. No clergy required for a legal marriage in the United States.

    My idea was to take a page out of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and say that only government officials could sign a marriage license. Everyone has to go to the town or county offices already. They just wouldn’t be getting clergy to sign that document.

    For the record, I belong to a religious group that supports same-sex marriage. The religious liberties of my denomination are being denied.

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