Same sex marriage and the separation of church and state
In the debates over same-sex marriage, one thing is becoming obvious to many liberals and a few conservatives that the state definition of marriage is too close to being dictated by the church. Bans on same-sex marriage favor religious edict over the common good and are detrimental to society as a whole. William Raspberry has a good editiorial today calling for getting the state out of the marriage business altogether and offering domestic partnerships to all couples, straight or gay.(Via Stone Court.) I agree whole-heartedly.
There are no convincing arguments for these bans for the common good or for state interest. As for the common good, to believe that the right of certain people not to be offended that gays and lesbians can marry now outstrips the marital rights of gays and lesbians, you have to assume that gays and lesbians are second-class citizens. Period. That's pretty much the definition of second-class citizen status--you have to curtail your basic rights for the comforts and privileges, not the rights, of others. Freedom to marry is a right. There is no right to dictate that other people have relationships to your liking. If there was such I right, then I could invoke it to ban "traditional" marriages where the wife takes on a Biblically mandated submissive role. The state has an interest in marriage for gay and lesbian couples, for the same reason that it has an interest in marriage for straight couples. If you buy that marriage is a stabilizing force for society, then that is true for same-sex couples as well.
I agree with Raspberry that we need to knock the word "marriage" itself out of the legal language and replace it with "partnership" or some other term like that. If it is done for straight and gay couples, then I can't imagine anyone on the side of the angels (that would be the pro-SSM side) would have a problem with it. But the problem of course is that the propagandists who are going nuts over how same-sex marriage is going to destroy marriage itself are not going to be satisfied with this solution. In fact, I can already picture in my mind the emails that will be flying around claiming that the homosexual activists are trying to ban marriage in retaliation.