Thursday, November 6, 2008

My solution to the gay marriage issue

Here's what I think California, and the country in general, should do to solve the issue of gay marriage, in a way which would be at least palatable to both sides.

The fundamental problem is that the concept a marriage is rooted in societal customs, which are themselves largely rooted in religion. America was founded as a country in which the laws would not involve religion, but it inherited some concepts which were indirectly tied to religion, and this is now causing friction. For example, most of the gay marriage opponents are fine with gay civil unions, they just consider "marriage" to be a fundamental religious institution which should be protected, and to some extent I agree. To that end, I'd propose the following solution:

All references in the state Constitution and laws to "marriage" are changed to "civil union", and the state ceases to recognize "marriage" as a legal or civil concept. All existing marriages are re-characterized as "civil unions", and all applicable laws and procedures are updated accordingly. Any provisions which are made "incorrect" after the change (such as the Prop 8 change, which would then violate equal protections and contradict other laws) are deleted. State workers are allowed to refer to civil unions as "marriages" by convention if they prefer to, but the term "marriage" would no longer have legal meaning. The law would request other jurisdictions honor the civil unions with full faith and credit, using whatever terminology is most appropriate for the other jurisdiction.

This would separate the legal concept of a civil union from the religious concept of a marriage, which would have lots of benefits. Any marriage from any church, recognized or otherwise, could also be a civil union, or you could have a civil union without a religious marriage. Each religion could maintain their marriage requirements without state interference, and all civil unions would be viewed equally under the law. Everybody wins.

As an aside, this represents a very rate political issue where there appears to be a solution which would make everyone reasonably happy... those don't come along very often. If only we had politicians with the brains and balls to implement it.


  1. I agree that the solution is simple. We need to remove marriage sanction from government and make it a more personal contractual thing. Your solution is necessary for the parts that can’t be immediately disconnected from government.

    I think this issue is still around because it’s a wedge issue. Politicians get people (including me) to vote on this issue instead of other more important issues. Regardless of whether gay people have equal marriage rights, people will continue being gay and life goes on.

    The issue isn’t around for want of a solution. There’s a political structure in place that guarantees the votes of big segments of the country based on this issue, and it won’t change until there’s a political reason to do so.

  2. For goodness sake I hope it doesn't come down to that Charles! I think the time is right to cross one of the last froniters in civil and human rights... after the struggle in 60s, minorities got their equal preotection law, now its same sex couples turn.

    to the OP... I'm thrilled that both a liberal and, apparantly a conservative leaning person can come to the same (seemingly easy) consensus! I just wish our elected officials would get on the ball already!

    I like your blog... I'll add it to my list =)