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.




Pam Spaulding: Compromise. It's something the LGBT community is quite used to as we work toward equality. The existence of second-class institutions like domestic partnerships and civil unions is concrete proof of our ability to compromise. Blankenhorn and Rauch's proposal represents a call to end the messy and painful legal and legislative battles occurring around the country, as if the conflicts themselves are problematic. What are they afraid of? They seem more concerned about addressing the discomfort of the religious slice of America unable to accept married same-sex couples. Would Blankenhorn and Rauch have suggested that a new federal civil institution be established to accommodate Americans who opposed interracial marriage? That's certainly what it sounds like.

I would welcome civil unions if I could be certain that when we crossed a state line, my Canadian marriage would remain intact and equivalent to the marriage of a straight couple. But that's a big, juicy "if." The reality is that civil unions and DPs are not seen that way; the gay community knows that, and so do conservatives.

Also, equality opponents have often acted in bad faith. Witness the outrageous lies, such as suggesting same-sex marriage leads directly to man-goat nuptials or incest. Why do Blankenhorn and Rauch seek to coddle this? Besides, religious conservatives, their beliefs already amply protected by law, show no interest in compromise. From trying to save their "right" to fire someone who is LGBT to ending reproductive freedom, Bible-based governance is their worldview. Church and state are not separate; therefore any change to civil law is seen as an assault on religious freedom.

Federal civil unions will not prevent discrimination or legal challenges in many states and may perhaps complicate matters until the U.S. Supreme Court resolves the issue. The disingenuous Blankenhorn and Rauch proposal would move the ball forward at a very high cost.