A couple of years back Californians, with a rather small majority, passed Proposition 8. It mandated, as a constitutional amendment, that marriage be between a man and a woman, setting aside a California Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage in California. Now there is a suit in California courts seeking to overturn the ban on gay marriage. One of the lawyers in this case is Theodore Olson, the former Solicitor General under President George W. Bush. Olson is a Republican and a conservative, but he recognizes that the current situation for Lesbians and Gays is untenable and unconstitutional.
He has written an excellent piece that appeared earlier in January in Newsweek. I had heard about it, but hadn't read it until seeing a blurb about it on Jack Rogers' blog. Jack, by the way, was my philosophy professor in seminary, and is the author of Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality (WJK).
As I read this piece I really don't think you could offer a better argument for why same sex marriage should be legalized. He offers moral, legal, and societal reasons. It is a matter of civil rights, fairness, and ultimately honesty.
As for the betterment of society, consider this statement:
Many of my fellow conservatives have an almost knee-jerk hostility toward gay marriage. This does not make sense, because same-sex unions promote the values conservatives prize. Marriage is one of the basic building blocks of our neighborhoods and our nation. At its best, it is a stable bond between two individuals who work to create a loving household and a social and economic partnership. We encourage couples to marry because the commitments they make to one another provide benefits not only to themselves but also to their families and communities. Marriage requires thinking beyond one's own needs. It transforms two individuals into a union based on shared aspirations, and in doing so establishes a formal investment in the well-being of society. The fact that individuals who happen to be gay want to share in this vital social institution is evidence that conservative ideals enjoy widespread acceptance. Conservatives should celebrate this, rather than lament it.
This is a wonderful argument -- we believe that marriage is foundational to community life and yet by law we forbid some from enjoying it, while allowing the rights to others. But why, if it will better our communities by solidifying relationships?
How can we, deny rights we cherish to a portion of our society? Surely there is a way, he suggests, that conservatives and liberals can come together on this point. I do believe that he offers the right framework. So, consider these words of Ted Olson:
No matter what you think of homosexuality, it is a fact that gays and lesbians are members of our families, clubs, and workplaces. They are our doctors, our teachers, our soldiers (whether we admit it or not), and our friends. They yearn for acceptance, stable relationships, and success in their lives, just like the rest of us.
Conservatives and liberals alike need to come together on principles that surely unite us. Certainly, we can agree on the value of strong families, lasting domestic relationships, and communities populated by persons with recognized and sanctioned bonds to one another. Confining some of our neighbors and friends who share these same values to an outlaw or second-class status undermines their sense of belonging and weakens their ties with the rest of us and what should be our common aspirations. Even those whose religious convictions preclude endorsement of what they may perceive as an unacceptable "lifestyle" should recognize that disapproval should not warrant stigmatization and unequal treatment.
When we refuse to accord this status to gays and lesbians, we discourage them from forming the same relationships we encourage for others. And we are also telling them, those who love them, and society as a whole that their relationships are less worthy, less legitimate, less permanent, and less valued. We demean their relationships and we demean them as individuals. I cannot imagine how we benefit as a society by doing so.
I heartily agree. Indeed, this is truly a question of how we support family values!