Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Proposition 8

Today ACS, along with the Federalist Society, CALSOC, CLS ACLU, and BLSA, welcomed Maggie Gallagher, the President of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, and Jennifer Vanasco, the Editor in Chief of 365gay.com, for a discussion about the policy issues surrounding California's Proposition 8 and the issue of gay marriage generally. The two spoke about the moral and philosophical background that animates the discussion between the pro- and anti-gay marriage communities, and urged that those invested in the debate seriously take account of reasons the other side has for its position.

Speaking first, Ms. Vanasco related the many forms that marriage has taken from a world-historical perspective. Stressing that while there is no universality to marriage in its current form, a union between two willing and loving heterosexual partners of similar age, there are certain norms and benefits that contemporary marriage conveys, and that these norms hold equally true for committed gay and lesbian couples. Studies have shown that people in committed relationships, gay or straight, are generally happier, healthier, live longer, and have more support in times of crisis than their single peers.

What the current debate often overlooks, in Ms. Vanasco's view, is that the gay community is not simply seeking legal rights, rights that the civil union experiment has not always afforded, but also seeking recognition of the responsibilities that gay partners have assumed for one another and their children. Pointing to the continual hurdles that even those with all the proper legal documentation have in gaining recognition of their relationship, Ms. Vanasco questioned what harm to the institution of marriage was enough to nullify the negative ramifications of not recognizing in law the commitments and responsibilities of gay and lesbian couples.

Noting that many in the room were in agreement with Ms. Vanasco's position, as was typical in her tours of elite universities throughout the country, Mrs. Gallagher urged that the audience attempt to understand the viewpoint of many in the country who believe that changing the definition of marriage to something other than between a man and a woman would alter the cultural understanding of marriage and potentially weaken the bond that keeps families intact.

Mrs. Gallagher also urged that those on the pro-gay marriage side look at the effects of a legal change in definition to the other side. Citing Bob Jones University v. United States, she claimed that expanding the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples would force upon private citizens and organizations legal obligations that would violate their privately held religious beliefs. It would stigmatize as bigotry opposition that arises from worries for the welfare of children born into situations where the bond of the family was less than in the past.


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