Conservative analyst and commentator Charles Krauthammer in a recent piece in the Washington Post lamented that in striking down DOMA the Supreme Court enumerated equal protection as one rationale for their decision. He argues (rightfully so) that the rationale of equal protection will lead eventually to nationalizing gay marriage.
We have turned a corner. While conservative states will rev up their stands against gay marriage as they did when the Supreme Court ruled segregation laws unconstitutional, their ultimate defeat on the issue of gay marriage is inevitable.
Just as there are key transitional stages in biological evolution, so we have now entered a transitional stage in our spiritual and moral evolution, at least in our part of the world. Recent polling indicates that in some estimates as much as 80 percent of the younger generation now supports gay marriage.
What’s a conservative to do? In an excellent piece in Baptists Today executive editor John Pierce contends that progressives and conservatives could agree that government should get out of the marriage business all together, because “holy matrimony belongs to the church (and other religious communities), not justices of the peace or any other government official.”
author Wendell Berry argues the same point. In a presentation at Georgetown
College (Kentucky), Berry said that “the sexual practices of consenting adults
ought not to be subjected to the government’s approval or disapproval, and that
domestic partnerships in which people who live together and devote their lives
to one another ought to receive the spousal rights, protections and privileges
the government allows to heterosexual couples.” Kentucky
In other words, for the purpose of equal protection under the law (tax benefits, inheritance rights, etc.) the government should treat all civil unions and domestic partnerships equally. It should be left solely to religious bodies to determine who is married according to their rules of faith and practice. Religious marriages would obviously be recognized by the government as civil unions, but civil unions would not be limited to marriage. Civil unions guaranteeing equal protection under the law would include same sex partnerships.
Would this not solve the controversy? Marriage is a sacred union most often performed in religious institutions by a religious leader. God is invoked in the process. Let religious communities set their own standards for marriage and let government govern without discrimination.
I would think that any religious community that believes in the separation of church and state could champion this modest proposal. If conservatives continue to fight same-sex marriage on current grounds, they will lose. It is just a matter of time before a federal mandate will overturn state laws prohibiting gay marriage. Eventually all 50 states will find themselves on the right side of history, swept along by the tide of an evolutionary change in spiritual and moral consciousness, even if they cross over kicking and screaming.