It would work like this: Congress would bestow the status of federal civil unions on same-sex marriages and civil unions granted at the state level, thereby conferring upon them most or all of the federal benefits and rights of marriage. But there would be a condition: Washington would recognize only those unions licensed in states with robust religious-conscience exceptions, which provide that religious organizations need not recognize same-sex unions against their will. The federal government would also enact religious-conscience protections of its own. All of these changes would be enacted in the same bill…
At the same time, federal law links many important perquisites to marital status, including Social Security survivor benefits, tax-free inheritance, spousal immigration rights and protections against mutual incrimination. All of these benefits are currently denied to same-sex couples, even those living in states that permit same-sex marriage or civil unions. But these same benefits could be conferred by federally recognized civil unions.
This was the first airing of this policy I’ve seen. My quick search for blog reactions today didn’t turn up too many hits, but here’re a few. (Note, please click through — my excerpts don’t encapsulate their entire arguments.)
Mark Silk: Well meaning as it is, the proposal…seems to me a half-way house that will have trouble standing. But the cry of distress from Rod Dreher about the “fast erosion of religious liberty in America” paints with far too broad a brush.
Update: Andrew Sullivan: My worry is the federalist one: I don’t see why the federal government should refuse to recognize what various states decide to call a civil marriage. As for strong religious liberty exception clauses, I have absolutely no objection… I don’t believe that allowing gay couples to marry will violate religious freedom any more than, say, legal civil divorce hurts the Catholic Church.
Street Prophets diarist I T: Yes, I am very uncomfortable with giving basic civil rights a religious exemption. And, what happens to gay people who live in viciously anti-gay states…BUT, if the idea is to find a compromise, a starting place, and if it can bring together such disparate views as the authors’, I think it has merit, at least for discussion.
Pam Spaulding: OK. I have a problem with this already, though I see where they are trying to accomplish — getting same-sex couples access to the rights and benefits of civil marriage and cede the word marriage to those who cannot decouple it from religious marriage in their heads…but Blankenhorn and Rauch’s solution, by accommodating the “misunderstanding” about the word marriage — rather than redefining it (something that has occurred countless times in the past), chooses to draw an institutionalized line of discrimination.
TNR’s Damon Linker: Sounds reasonable to me — provided that the Supreme Court allowed such a law to stand. In its current configuration, tilted slightly to the right, it just might. But after a couple of Obama appointments? I’d put the likelihood of a more liberal court overturning a federal civil unions law on equal protection (or other) grounds as pretty darn high.
Having grown up in the oh-so-old-fashioned commonwealth of Virginia, I’ve never seen a ballot initiative up close and personal. I’ve never signed a petition to get one on the ballot. Never voted for or against it. Never attended a rally protesting the results (as one of my friends in California did last night). My political junkie-ness has generally been confined to candidate races.
Needless to say, I find ballot initiatives oddly fascinating. There were a lot this election cycle– 153, in fact.
The outcomes of these initiatives are interesting, especially in light of the “culture warâ€ rhetoric Sarah Palin infused into the campaign. While McCain calls himself a federalist and believes marital law should be left to the states, Palin spoke out in favor of a federal amendment to ban gay marriage. (She also supported a 1998 ballot in Alaska to ban same-sex marriage. )
Bans of this type were on the ballot this week in three states: Florida, California, and Arizona. All passed.
On the other hand, three states had initiatives about reproductive rights, all of which went the more liberal direction. South Dakota defeated a stringent near-ban on abortion, California defeated a parental notification requirement, and a “personhood” amendment in Colorado was soundly turned down.
So, all three anti-gay rights measures passed and all three anti-abortion measures failed. In a time of economic anxiety and a growing desire to find common ground, it’s not surprising to me that these “wedge” issues didn’t entirely motivate voters the way social conservatives wanted. But it’s still interesting that in an election cycle where even white evangelicals– typically a socially conservative bunch– didn’t rank abortion or same-sex marriage as one of their top five concerns, same-sex marriage bans passed.
Also interesting is the role of young voters here. It’s still not clear to me whether youth turnout was as high as suggested/anticipated, but if it had been, I would’ve expected the inverse.
On the other hand, young evangelicals are much more open and accepting of gays and lesbians. Over 50% of this group approve of either same-sex marriage or civil unions.
This election was certainly not animated by these hot-button issues as elections past have been, and for that I’m grateful. I think Americans have a lot more to talk about, to work together on, and to make progress on than abortion and gay marriage. But I’m still puzzled… any ideas?
P.S. Stay tuned for more ballot initiative analysis tomorrow!
Now social moderates are not taking prisoners when is comes to flip-flopping when pandering to the Religious Right.
The Times, (Washington that is), writes:
The 30-second ad, airing in Iowa and on Fox News for the next 10 days, portrays the former Massachusetts governor as changing his positions on abortion, gun rights, even his opinion of former President Ronald Reagan. Paid for by the Log Cabin Republicans, a homosexual rights organization, the ad uses Mr. Romney’s own words from a 1994 debate.
Beyond the recent debate over the third party threats of the religious right, there exist some subtle and long-term changes affecting evangelical Christianity. Here are two examples on poverty/urban sprawl as well as homosexuality.
Justice in the Burbs
And Zack, of Revolution in Jesusland, recently attended an evangelical leadership conference. It appears more and more religious leaders might be waking up to the fact that constructive engagement with homosexuals is a moral value — and a church growth value too.
. . .one thing really stood out, and subtly became the main focus of the evening forum. Apparently, all the anti-gay marriage ballot initiatives and other anti-gay campaigning have really been ravaging the perception of Christianity among the general public, and even among young Christians. He [Dave, of the Barna research group] showed one graph that showed favorability ratings over the past several decades for gays shooting up from low single digits to 33% today. (That might have been just among young people, I can’t remember.)
Meanwhile, right along with that, the favorability rating for “evangelicalsâ€ among the same group plummeted from high numbers to 3%! David didn’t argue for a direct correlation between those two numbers. But he talked about how today most young people know openly gay people, and they are having a hard time reconciling what their church says and their valued relationships.
My church is in the headlines again today. The headline is not “Episcopal Church Opposes Warâ€ or “Episcopal Church Supports SCHIPâ€ or “Episcopal Church Works to Fight Povertyâ€ or “Episcopal Church Lobbies for Katrina Aid.â€ No, my church doesn’t have time for such pressing social justice issues.
Forgive me, but I’m just so tired of it all. Don’t get me wrong, the issue is critical: the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the church is indeed a social justice issue. But I’m not sure that’s the issue at hand. I’m afraid the competing issue is something called “unityâ€.
Our bishops are big on unity. We have been schism-shy since Henry VIII dumped the Pope for Anne Boleyn. We Episcopalians didn’t split over slavery, as many of our mainline colleagues did. (No doubt a few Episcopalians experienced “unityâ€ and even communion through the cotton of their southern plantations and northern mills).
I’m thinking that unity has become an idol. Our bishops have pledged to “exercise restraintâ€ in ordaining another gay bishop, and they are not authorizing rites for same-sex marriages. While the American bishops rightly did not cave in to pressure from the conservative bishops of the worldwide Anglican communion to stop ordaining gay bishops and reject same-sex marriage, they did assert their over-arching desire to remain part of the international body. Unity trumps integrity?
I hope not. I do love my church. I became an Episcopalian because I saw the Episcopal Church (in the local iteration of All Saints Pasadena) as the church that opposed the war in Vietnam, worked for Civil Rights, championed the ordination of women, fought the Reagan nuclear arms buildup, forged ahead with gay marriage and supported openly gay priests and bishops. And I have been proud to be part of a local church (Trinity in Santa Barbara) and a diocese (Los Angeles) that has been at the forefront of the struggle for our church to become open and welcoming to all.
I love my church, and so I want us to just get on with it. I want us to look like the church of Jesus, where all manner and condition of folks gather for the feast: everybody’s welcome at the banquet table. I want us to stand up for inclusion, and that might mean that unity takes a back seat.
It’s time for the Protestant Principle. Time to exercise not restraint, but protest.
Because, as Gene Robinson, our gay bishop from New Hampshire said about the New Orleans summit, “No one’s vision won.â€