Other Opinions

Mark Davis: My simple win-win solution to the gay marriage debate

For years, I’ve had this crazy idea for solving the gay marriage debate. It’s called following the Constitution.

Under this revolutionary plan, states wishing to grant equal status to gay unions may do so, while states wishing to maintain unique legal recognition for man-woman marriages are equally free, and thus freed from the mischief of activist judges.

This is what the Bill of Rights requires. Matters unaddressed in the Constitution are left to the people and to the states. But in an era when the Founders’ logic is battered against the rocks by social engineers in robes, there may be only one solution: Get government out of the marriage business altogether.

This idea, currently murmuring around some state legislatures, enjoys a unique ability to earn nods of approval across the political spectrum, from gay-rights advocates to conservative Christians.

This is because the process of marriage itself has never been the real issue. Gays may marry in any state they wish at any time. The only battleground is over government recognition of those unions.

Gays and those supportive of so-called “marriage equality” are fighting for same-sex marriages to be viewed equally to heterosexual unions. Gay marriage opponents realize they have no business blocking what others seek to do with their lives, but they object to government giving a seal of approval to a practice they consider morally objectionable.

Poof, marriage privatization satisfies both sides – by placing government precisely where it most often belongs: out of our business. Licensure is a condition placed by government that says you cannot do something (drive a car, practice law, shoot a deer) until you have met certain conditions.

The inclusion of marriage on the list of government-sanctioned activities is a relatively recent development. The gay marriage battle might be the off-ramp we have long needed to reassert marriage as the business of the participating individuals and no one else.

A bill returning marriage to the province of personal and religious choice is rolling through the legislature in Alabama, where it passed the Senate 22-3. It provides for marriage contracts to be filed with county probate judges’ offices when marriages occur, with no state imprimatur as to the worthiness of what citizens have chosen to do.

At long last, busybody judges would no longer have the power to controvert the will of states opposed to government blessing of gay marriage. Of course, proponents of traditional marriage would no longer have a state thumbs-up for their chosen unions either, but a government OK has never been what made traditional marriage sacred.

There are details to be worked out, to be sure. What should marriage contracts say about children, for example? But it is hard to imagine marriage privatization establishing a more hazardous minefield than the divorce-laden wreckage currently overseen by the judiciary.

And once we are reminded that marriage is between people, perhaps that would lead to refreshing clarity on other matters, such as the right of private businesses to decline service to marriages contrary to their religious beliefs.

That’s a tall wish. The flames of activist fascism are not easily doused, and there are some who will not be happy until government compels uniformity of belief. Attitudes are indeed changing rapidly on the issue of gay marriage, and individuals are free to board that high-speed train if they wish. But those wishing to maintain their preference for traditional marriage should be equally free to do so, unmolested by the current push for court-mandated unanimity.

Maybe we could call it “belief equality.” But by whatever name, solutions that respect individual liberties while restraining government to its constitutional limits are always a good idea.

Davis is a North Texas-based conservative talk show host who regularly writes for the Dallas Morning News.