Conflict Resolution

In a February New York Times op-ed, "family values" activist David Blankenhorn and out journalist Jonathan Rauch jointly proposed a solution to this country's debate over same-sex marriage: federal civil unions that religious groups wouldn't be compelled to honor. Are Blankenhorn and Rauch right? Two opinionators weigh in.

BY Advocate.com Editors

April 06 2009 12:00 AM ET

Dan Savage: Now is not the time to cut a deal with haters on the Christian right -- oops, sorry. That was a little scorched-earthy: Now is not the time to forge a compromise with people of faith. As hard as it is to believe after Prop. 8, we're winning. In 2000, California voters banned gay marriage by a 22-point margin. Last year Californians constitutionally banned same-sex marriage by only a four-point margin. Polls show a nationwide shift in favor of marriage equality.

The "conflict down the road" that Blankenhorn wants to head off is, I believe, an internal one: Once gay Americans achieve full civil equality, the "conflict" will be among the religious right over "who lost marriage," much as the GOP is battling now over who lost the Oval Office. That's a conflict I'm looking forward to, so I don't get why Rauch wants to cut a deal now. Religious-conscience exceptions that he and Blankenhorn cite as a model -- "statutes [that] allow Catholic hospitals to refuse to provide abortions" -- already opened a Pandora's box, with people like pharmacists insisting that they too have a right to discriminate based on their religious beliefs.

On the other hand, in Washington State, where I live with my husband-in-Canada/boyfriend-in-the-U.S. and our 11-year-old son, two gay state legislators -- Ed Murray and Jamie Pedersen-helped pass two domestic-partnership bills, the second more expansive than the first, and are working on a third. The politicians introduced the first DP bill after our state supreme court ruled against same-sex marriage.

Murray and Pedersen's efforts are pragmatic. I could support a similar effort at the federal level -- federal civil unions -- that fell short of full marriage equality. But I wouldn't be able to support federal civil unions if they simultaneously created special rights for religious organizations to discriminate against same-sex couples.

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