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 12:00 AM ET

JENNY PIZER INSERT RINGS X390 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COM

Jenny Pizer, National Marriage Project director for Lambda Legal

We do not think it's a good compromise at all. The heart of the issue is that we're talking about civil marriage and the fact that the government should be treating everyone equally in this civil institution. They would never suggest that the government disallow interfaith or interracial marriages -- or people who remarry after divorce -- just to accommodate some who oppose such unions on religious grounds.

The government shouldn't avoid this conflict and "compromise" by saying that a minority group that has been discriminated against and excluded for a long time should continue to be kept out of the system in order to accommodate the views of people who think this minority shouldn't have equal rights and should be segregated and subordinated. That idea is pernicious because of the resistance we face. If we're talking about the government, talking about the professional marketplace, there's a lot of areas of life that are secular. Religious organizations may be welcome to participate in the public marketplace, but they will have to participate by the same rules that everyone else has to follow. It's an enormous problem if we accept the idea that certain groups don't have to follow civil rights laws or any other laws.

David Blankenhorn is a right-wing ideologue who has a particular view that kids should only be born into man-woman relationships and that society is going to hell in a handbasket because heterosexual marriages are failing. Jonathan Rausch made a conservative argument for marriage. He's not grappling with the core problem that discrimination really hurts gay people, and it doesn't matter if there's a religious motive or a secular motive.

Everyone's entitled to hold onto their religious beliefs, but governing rules have to treat everyone as equal. This op-ed seeks to expand religious exceptions in terms of equality, with respect to the way that government treats people. The government must not be discriminating. And the main reason I object to this so vehemently is that what we saw in the Prop. 8 campaign is the pack of lies around the idea that marriage equality for gay and lesbian people necessarily brings attack on churches and religious leaders and religious institutions, and that's just not true. Religious figures do not have to perform any kinds of marriages for any couples they don't want to marry. They are absolutely legally exempted from doing that, and they're entitled to teach what they want to teach. But if they decide that they want to run a group home as a service of the state, and they decide to take in these kids who are wards of the state, then that's not a religious ritual. The fact that they may have a religious reason for wanting to provide that service is fine, but they still have to follow the rules. They have to be licensed by the state, and they cannot discriminate.

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