The Supreme Court recently handed down a decision the holds the sodomy law in Texas unconstitutional. I might mention that I agreed with this decision. As one who thinks government powers ought to be limited, I think giving the government the power to police your bedroom is not a good thing. You would think most conservatives would agree, but it has become obvious that many conservatives think the government ought not be involved, but only if citizens are behaving like the conservatives would like them to.
Given that decision, there’s now a great deal of talk about gay marriage being next on the agenda. Obviously gays and lesbians would be in favor of such a thing. The main reason is to extend to their partners the full legal entitlements and protections that marriage has always conferred on spouses and children. I’ll agree that there have been a few instances where, usually as one partner is dying, that the family comes in and disrupts the relationship. Perhaps the couple executed some legal-looking agreements that spelled out their wishes, but these are have no real legal standing, and some unwanted situations have occurred. There is also often the matter of, for example, an employee getting medical coverage for the partner.
I think back to what the original intent of a legally-binding marriage was all about. Apart from religious teachings and practices, it was about a society’s compelling interest in having families, and especially children, living in protected and stable environments. I think everyone agrees that the traditional family has the greatest odds of producing civilized and productive children, and it stands to reason that a society would take steps to encourage that environment. I do not see where society has a compelling interest in extending all these protections to same-sex partners. To me, what is marriage about, if it is not about granting a special legal (and in our society, moral) status to all members of a family?
I do see where some accommodation should be made for couples who find themselves in this predicament. Could there not be some sort of “partial marriage”? All the commitments and celebrations might be undertaken, where some protections are automatically extended. Where agreements about inheritance and visitation and so on could be legally enforced for couples who entered into whatever we might call this new bonding.
I am not, however, impressed by Senator Frist’s comments about favoring a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, especially on the grounds that marriage is a sacrament. Should the states decide this individually, or should the Federal government decide? I don’t know, there’s problems either way. I’m not so sure this is such a big deal that the Feds have to get involved, but there’s a lot to be said for consistency among the states.
July 5, 2003