On Marriage Equality

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Posted on: 06/01/2014 by Pat O'Brien

When "The Radical Moderate" was self-published in 2011 I did not foresee how quickly attitudes about gay marriage would change. I didn't know that President Obama would become an advocate for gay marriage. I didn't know that both the NBA and NFL would see their first openly gay players. And, I certainly didn't know that 19 states plus the District of Columbia would see legalization of gay marriage through both democratic means, and mostly by court decisions. I didn't know any of that would happen - at least this quickly. But, the logic of 2011 is the same as the logic of 2014. All homosexuals should be treated with respect and if the state is going to sanction marriage then under the equal protection clause it will have to allow homosexuals to get married.

Even Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, a staunch social conservative, has decided that if the government is in the marriage business then homosexuals will be legally allowed to participate. While it will apparently take years for other social conservative politicians to join the ranks of Senator Hatch, it is now inevitable regardless of how they feel. There will be no turning back the clock. If the government is sanctioning marriage, then everyone gets to do it.

There is one important question left to be decided - should the government be in the marriage business at all? There is an argument to say that government should just handle property and family matters (e.g. child custody) and leave the concept of marriage to churches. Government involvement in marriage became more prevalent in European countries during the 16th century following the Protestant Reformation led by Martin Luther. But, if things can change in the direction of having the government sanction marriage then they can also change back the other way.

I think when most social conservatives hear that the government must allow homosexuals to marry they view it as an affront to their religion. They shouldn't. Their religion is separate and apart from government action. For example, my Catholic Church doesn't currently acknowledge divorce. You can't get a government sanctioned divorce and then marry again inside a Catholic Church unless you get an annulment. And only the church can grant one. Allowing gays to marry under state law has no effect on the laws of the church. That gets lost in this debate.

Will social conservatives propose to remove the government from the marriage business? I don't forsee that happening. However, back in 2011 there were a lot of things I didn't forsee happening.

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