Can Marriage Equality Be Compromised?

Three key people immersed in different aspects of the marriage-equality effort weigh in on a New York Times op-ed attempting to forge a compromise on how the federal government handles same-sex unions.

BY Michelle Garcia

February 27 2009 1:00 AM ET

The February 21 edition
TheNew York Timesfeatured an op-ed

by writers Jonathan Rauch and David Blankenhorn attempting to
forge a compromise on how the federal government should
recognize same-sex unions. They suggest that Congress
acknowledge statewide marriage laws, extending federal civil
union status to marriages and civil
unions that are lawful in specific states, so
long as those states also extend protections to
religious organizations that object, legally exempting any such
organizations from participating in same-sex

We asked three key
people immersed in different aspects of the marriage-equality
effort to weigh in on Rauch and Blankenhorn's

Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry

Although I trust these
writers are sincere, this is a misdirected solution to a phony
problem. In 2006, for example, David Blankenhorn, a
self-proclaimed moderate, participated in a
debate with me on C-SPAN

, and then wrote a whole book regarding his opposition to our
freedom to marry. That opposition had nothing to do with
"religious exemptions" (an odd concept when it comes
to who should be able to marry) or anything in this piece.

The core of the real
opposition we face is not really about marriage -- it's
about gay. The same forces against our freedom to marry are
also against its products, which include civil union and
partnership. We will never give enough ground to appease them,
nor should we. Why take on the burden of inventing and then
selling a second-class, cobbled-together, unworkable new system
with all its headaches and intrinsic and complex flaws
(including this op-ed's dangerous and wholly unnecessary
religious carve-outs and complete withholding of marriage
itself) -- instead of the system that exists, marriage -- just
because gay couples are starting to participate? Why surrender
the moral high ground we are successfully claiming -- with
principle, persuasion, patience, and persistence -- for an
illusory common ground when, as witness the most recent and
vociferous rejection of even civil unions and any such
half-measure by the so-called moderate new chair of the
Republican Party, Michael Steele, this is a nonstarter.

So-called compromises
such as this are just a distraction from the real work at hand
to address the real problem: the need to end the "gay
exception" to marriage and fair treatment of families. We
should not allow opponents to divert us from engaging the
reachable-but-not-yet-reached public in the resonant vocabulary
of marriage, which, after all, is what is moving us forward (as
the creation and greater embrace of civil union itself shows).
Our advocates should stop bargaining against us, and help
engage people on the merits, making the case for why marriage
matters and why equality is the right answer.