have great respect for the work of the Family
Research Council, the Concerned
Women for America, and for Robert Knight. Although I am often
in sympathy with their views, it is also true that, in important
ways, I see the matters of marriage and homosexuality differently
than they do. I do not personally view homosexuality as sinful,
nor am I even opposed to some of the sexual loosening that has emerged
in the wake of the Sixties. I neither deem possible, nor seek, a
return to the system of the Fifties. Instead I think we need to
find a way to live in the sometimes muddled middle ground between
the traditional system and the more extreme expressions of the sixties
position in "No
Room For Compromise" is seemingly more consistent than
this, as are the positions of, say, gay or feminist radicals who
wish to subvert or replace marriage. But I believe that the social
basis of the old system has been destroyed, while the utopian visions
of the radicals are both flawed and unworkable. So as I see it,
we have little choice but to work toward a moderate middle ground.
That does not
mean that strong and conservative religious communities should not,
or cannot, continue to exist in many parts of America. And under
the Federal Marriage Amendment, social conservatives, both religious
and secular, have every opportunity to persuade their state legislatures
not to grant benefits of any kind to homosexual couples. The Federal
Marriage Amendment does not in any way mandate domestic partnership
benefits, and such benefits are only a possibility to begin with
because the Constitution, not the Federal Marriage Amendment, places
such decisions within the discretion of state legislatures.
For Mr. Knight
to allege that the Federal Marriage Amendment "allows"
state legislatures to enact, say civil unions, makes no more sense
than to say that the amendment "allows" state legislatures
to enact no-fault divorce. It is not the Federal Marriage Amendment,
but our Constitution that allows state legislatures to parcel out
benefits and regulate divorce. If this is what troubles Knight,
his quarrel is not with the Federal Marriage Amendment, but with
the Founders of our nation.
As I argued
Right Balance," the Founders did indeed presuppose heterosexual
marriage, and our country's unity depends upon holding fast to a
single basic definition of marriage. That is why the Federal Marriage
Amendment's definition of marriage makes sense. But states have
always had authority over the detailed parceling out of benefits,
and it is unlikely that even a single state legislature (much less
legislatures in three quarters of the states) would ever ratify
Knight's proposed version of the amendment, since that would mean
deeding away their constitutionally delegated authority over a whole
range of family law matters.
It is worth
noting that Gary Bauer, the man who established the Family Research
Council as a premiere defender of America's families, has joined
with such conservative luminaries as Judge Robert Bork, Robert P.
George, and Hadley Arkes in supporting the Federal Marriage Amendment.
These distinguished leaders consider the Federal Marriage Amendment
to be, not only consistent with federalism, but also the only politically
achievable solution to this problem. And as our expanding debate
on same-sex marriage at National Review Online indicates, those
who favor same-sex marriage view the Federal Marriage Amendment
with alarm. Why would they do so if it was toothless?
Bork, in his recent call for support of the Federal Marriage Amendment,
pointed out that there was once an opportunity to pass a constitutional
amendment overturning Roe v. Wade and turning the
question of abortion back to the states. Purists who demanded an
amendment banning abortion outright instead got nothing. In just
this way, Mr. Knight's reluctance to face the social and political
realities of the same-sex marriage debate risks losing the chance
for an amendment of any sort, thereby allowing the courts to impose
gay marriage against the will of the American people.
for Marriage, sponsor of the Federal Marriage Amendment, has succeeded
in forging a broad-based coalition that includes liberal civil rights
leaders, secular and moderate social conservatives like myself,
and religious people from a wide array of faiths. No campaign to
pass a constitutional amendment can succeed without building a broad
coalition at the national level. Such an alliance must necessarily
extend beyond the bounds of any one religious community or political
position. As a practical matter, the Federal Marriage Amendment
represents our best chance of gathering together a winning coalition,
while there is still time to prevent the courts from taking marriage
out of the hands of the people.