Like the President, I’ve supported civil unions for many years. I even made a radical—and totally unrealistic—proposal on this blog last year for Civil Unions for All:
Civil marriage would be replaced by civil unions. In the case of already existing civil marriages, civil unions, and domestic partnerships, these would be converted into civil unions dated retroactively to the date of the marriage license. Anyone married in a church would of course still be considered married. Those married in civil ceremonies could still, of course, call themselves married.
It was only a thought experiment, but I argued that this unlikely solution would address the legitimate concerns on both sides of the same-sex-marriage debate, and most importantly . . .
A group of Americans (would) no longer (be) second class citizens: This is the sticking point for me. It’s why I support civil unions, and why a majority of Americans—including many uncomfortable with “gay marriage”—support civil unions as well. As Americans we value fairness, and fairness will eventually win out.
Fairness will eventually win out, but after Tuesday’s vote in North Carolina on Amendment One, civil unions are no longer an option. The authors of this amendment made sure of that by not only banning same-sex-marriage—which isn’t legal in the state anyway—but by invalidating any civil union or domestic partnership between any two people: gay or straight. It’s get a marriage license from the state—if you can—or give up all your rights.
This law isn’t about protecting the institution of marriage. The fight against marriage rights has never been about protecting marriage. If it was, the same people who oppose same-sex marriage would also oppose no-fault divorce. They wouldn’t consider a politician on his third marriage and a political commentator on his fourth as defenders of “traditional marriage.” They would see a 55-hour-long celebrity marriage as a greater threat to the institution than a gay couple who’ve been together for 55 years. But their hypocrisy betrays their true agenda: to keep a group of Americans as permanent second-class citizens.
The vote in North Carolina convinced me of this, and I think it convinced the President too. It certainly helped complete the “evolution” of both his position and mine. We realize—as do many Americans who’ve wrestled with this issue— that the only way to extend the civil rights to all couples is to open civil marriage to all couples.
Doing this will not will not change the Sacrament of Matrimony in the Catholic Church any more than it will change the Covenant of Marriage in any Protestant church. The handful of religious institutions that perform same-sex marriages or bless same-sex unions will continue to do so with or without legal recognition from the state, while the overwhelming majority of churches, synagogues, and mosques who do not will never be forced to do otherwise.
As Americans, we value freedom of religion because we value our freedom as highly as our beliefs. We err on the side of individual liberty, even when we detest what people might do with that liberty, because we know the alternative is much worse. We value fairness because we want to be treated fairly ourselves. We value the Golden Rule because—as those who oppose marriage rights often remind us—we are a Judeo-Christian nation.
Ironic, isn’t it? Despite their best efforts, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” will eventually win out.