In a remarkable development, David Blankenhorn and Jonathan Rauch recently wrote an op-ed in the New York Times suggesting a way to achieve “reconciliation” on the gay marriage debate that would “temporarily satisfy both sides.”
This morning, Sherif Girgis and Ryan T. Anderson have responded on the indispensable Public Discourse site with a counterproposal:
Rauch and Blankenhorn’s proposal is straightforward: The federal government would offer civil unions (including most, if not all, marital benefits) to same-sex couples that have entered a civil union under their state’s law. That is what the supporters of same-sex ‘marriage’ (“revisionists”) get out of the bargain. At the same time, the federal government would enact legislation to protect religious organizations from being forced to acknowledge same-sex unions. And it would recognize only those civil unions that are licensed in states that also offer religious-conscience exemptions. That is what the supporters of traditional marriage (“traditionalists”) get. (We must note that Rauch and Blankenhorn do not specify the scope of the religious liberty protections that would be put in place and how religious liberty rights would be preserved in the face of assaults in the name of anti-discrimination principles.)
But as we see it, this proposal grants too much to revisionists and too little to traditionalists. Revisionists get the substantive (if not linguistic) treatment of homosexual unions as marriages; traditionalists get conscience protection (of unspecified scope). But traditionalists’ primary concern is not simply to secure an enclave of personal liberty to regard marriage as they see fit. Rather, it is to promote a healthy culture of marriage understood as a public good that also fulfills spouses and the larger communities of which they are members.
. . .
That brings us to our alternative proposal: The revisionists would agree to oppose the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), thus ensuring that federal law retains the traditional definition of marriage as the union of husband and wife, and states retain the right to preserve that definition in their law. In return, traditionalists would agree to support federal civil unions offering most or all marital benefits. But, as Princeton’s Robert P. George once proposed for New Jersey civil unions, unions recognized by the federal government would be available to any two adults who commit to sharing domestic responsibilities, whether or not their relationship is sexual. Available only to people otherwise ineligible to marry each other (say, because of consanguinity), these unions would neither introduce a rival “marriage-lite” option nor treat same-sex unions as marriages. Their purpose would be to protect adult domestic partners who have pledged themselves to a mutually binding relationship of care. What (if anything) goes on in the bedroom would have nothing to do with these unions’ goals or, thus, eligibility requirements.
Read the rest here .