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

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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