I’d been kicking around an idea for a gay marriage proposal that I’d send out to voices on both sides of the gay marriage debate to see how they would react. The proposal would be three-pronged:
- A given state would recognize gay marriage provided the partners agree to the same terms and conditions associated with traditional marriage (e.g., monogamy, joint property ownership, inheritance & etc).
- Said state would make clear that various religious denominations would remain free to define marriage according to the strictures and customs of their faith.
- Said state would eliminate “no-fault” divorce and make it more difficult to dissolve marriages.
This would challenge those opposed to gay marriage to consider state recognition of same-sex marriage as part of a strengthening of the institution in the eyes of the law. It would see whether gay marriage advocates recognized marriage as a social institution (as opposed to a political “right”.)
Given this idea that had been kicking around in my head, I found another thing to celebrate in the Vermont law recognizing same-sex marriage. That legislation meets the second prong of my proposal through, in the world of gay marriage opponent Maggie Gallagher, “imperfect, yet substantive, religious-liberty protections.” There really is a benefit to going through the legislature.
My friend David Benkof, no fan of gay marriage her, calls this provision “a hidden victory for religious freedom“:
The Green Mountain State’s new law says in its “Public Accommodations” section that religious groups “shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges to an individual if the request . . . is related to the solemnization of a marriage or celebration of a marriage.” It also bars civil lawsuits against religious groups that refuse to provide goods or services to same-sex weddings.
In other words, private religious groups are free not to recognize same-sex marriage and free not to offer goods or services to same-sex couples getting married.
The state recognizes gay marriages, but individuals and institutions who, for whatever reason, oppose this expansion of the institution, need not accommodate such unions. That seems a reasonable compromise.Â Indeed, this solution is true to a slogan which I’ve often read on bumper stickers and heard (albeit in different words) on the lips of gay marriage advocates: “Opposed to Gay Marriage, Don’t Have One.”
Like me, David prefers the legislative approach:
It’s not a coincidence that the first real protections for religious organizations in a gay marriage state came in the first place to implement same-sex marriage by legislative action rather than judicial fiat. The legislative process usually involves compromise, and the need to get a majority often leads to amendments that incorporate each side’s concerns.
Yet another reason to cheer the Green Mountain State’s path to recognition of gay marriage.