A Win-Win?

Bob Hyatt has a great post up on the Out of Ur blog that proposes a very sensible way forward in how we deal with the same-sex marriage issue. Money quotes:

“Is it possible to achieve a win-win on the issue of Same-Sex Marriage (SSM)? I think it’s not only possible, it’s imperative.

The recent success (and subsequent furor and church protests) overProposition 8 in otherwise reliably-liberal California shows just how divided we are over this issue. Want to start an argument? Bring up same-sex marriage and watch the sparks fly and the tempers rise.


Because, at least at this point, neither side seems willing to try to see the issue from the other’s perspective and look for something other than a binary, yes or no solution. And where will that lead us? Certainly no place good. Look for more protests of churches; more accusations that those who speak out in favor of the biblical understanding of marriage are “haters;” and fewer and fewer gay men and women even giving the gospel a hearing, because—in their minds—the church simply doesn’t care about them as people.

In order to avoid exacerbating this cultural war, some common-sense compromise is going to be necessary; each side is going to have to give up something for the sake of the other.”


…the state needs to get out of the “marriage” business. It should recognize that as long as it uses that term and continues to privilege certain types of relationships over others this issue is going to divide us as a nation and is only going to become more and more contentious. We need to move towards the system used in many European countries, where the state issues nothing but civil unions to anyone who wants them, and those who desire it may seek a marriage from the church. When I pastored in the Netherlands, couples got a civil union certificate at the courthouse and then had a marriage ceremony at the church. This division largely negated the culture war aspect, and allowed those churches who objected to same sex marriage on biblical grounds not only to opt out, but to be able to continue to teach their biblical view of marriage unchallenged by the state….

I think Bob lays out here the only realistic way to move forward on this issue. Even though I’m on the affirming side of the issue, I don’t begrudge those who have a traditional view and I don’t think they should be forced by law to alter their conviction. If we remove the government from the role of validating marriages, then we can allow any couple to attain a civil union while leaving marriage for the Church to sort out. Those churches who want to remain on the traditional side of the issue can do so and are protected under the law. And same-sex couples can find a church that is affirming of their relationship and be married. I can live with that. The most formidable obstacle I see with this approach is whether or not conservatives on the traditional side of the issue can get over being called bad names.

I would be curious to hear from the gay and lesbian readers how they feel about this.

5 thoughts on “A Win-Win?

  1. I agree with this way. Either the definition of marriage has to be changed (meaning a necessary repeal of DOMA). Or, get rid of it as a state issue altogether. We don’t need marriage for population growth anymore since mortality has been so reduced in this society. I can’t imagine that getting rid of marriage as a state sponsored institution would be problematic for anyone, but I could be wrong.

  2. I’ve had this conversation with gay people before, and most of them think the idea of a compromise is completely logical. Most of them just want the legal rights other couples are given through marriage, and this solves that problem. On the other side, I totally understand why some don’t want to call it “marriage” (though I really think there are so many other fights worth fighting as The Church), and this would satisfy that aspect for them. I’m a christian, myself, and what bothers me more than gay marriage is the state of marriage in general being something our country seems to regard with no real seriousness. I live in Oklahoma, home of one of the some of the highest divorce rates in the country…And I’m in a generation of kids that have been really hurt by growing up with divorced parents. My hope is that gay or straight, my generation (and people in general) will start taking the commitment seriously.

  3. Well Zach, I think you’re probably right. I live in one of the three countries that have full SSM rights (Canada, the other two being the Netherlands and Spain), but not all countries that allow couples to unite have the same laws. For instance, the Scandinavian countries have Registered Partnerships, which is technically the same as marriage but doesn’t have cultural association with “traditional” marriage. The UK and Germany also offer similar partnership agreements, and France offers Pactes Civils, which aren’t quite as binding as marriage but (interestingly enough) may also be entered into by heterosexual couples.

    The important point to make is that same sex couples have been legally uniting for almost 20 years now (the first was Denmark, 1989), and the sky has not fallen, nor have thsee countries which have extended those rights suffered for it. There is no reason why they should not have the same rights as other couples, and if getting the state out of the marriage business is what it would take for the United States to offer those rights, then I think that is what people should go for.

  4. this is something i’ve advocated for a long while now. and one positive side effect it may have is that the separation of marriage from a civil union in the eyes of society and the church might make christians take a step back and re-evaluate what they assume marriage is and what it represents.

    too many christians view marriage as something similar to a civil union that functions only to reserve the legal rights of its participants — except that it’s also religious a little bit, since it happens in a church most of the time. when “marriage” becomes separated from these contractual, legal, political concepts, then the real essence of marriage can be focused on instead.

  5. Very good point, Sean. I never really thought about the fact that marriage is never talked about in a “legal” sense in the bible, and that seems to be where we’ve gone wrong. I actually have a friend that is married only for the legal benefits, so something is definitely not right.

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