Cultural civil war can be avoided by getting government out of marriage!
There is no question that the media, political, and cultural push for gay marriage has made impressive gains. As recently as 1989, voters in avant-garde San Francisco repealed a law that had established only domestic partnerships.
But judging by the questions posed by Supreme Court justices this week in oral arguments for two gay-marriage cases, most observers do not expect sweeping rulings that would settle the issue and avoid protracted political combat. A total of 41 states currently do not allow gay marriage, and most of those laws are likely to remain in place for some time. Even should the Court declare unconstitutional the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman for federal purposes, we can expect many pitched battles in Congress. The word “spouse” appears in federal laws and regulations a total of 1,138 times, and many of those references would have to be untangled by Congress absent DOMA.
No wonder Wisconsin’s GOP governor Scott Walker sees public desire for a Third Way. On Meet the Press this month he remarked on how many young people have asked him why the debate is over whether the definition of marriage should be expanded. They think the question is rather “why the government is sanctioning it in the first place.” The alterative would be to “not have the government sanction marriage period, and leave that up to the churches and the synagogues and others to define that.”
Governor Walker made clear these thoughts weren’t “anything I’m advocating for,” but he gave voice to many people who don’t think the gay-marriage debate should tear the country apart in a battle over who controls the culture and wins the government’s seal of approval. Gay-marriage proponents argue that their struggle is the civil-rights issue of our time, although many gays privately question that idea. Opponents who bear no animus toward gays lament that ancient traditions are being swept aside before the evidence is in on how gay marriage would affect the culture.