In The New York Times last month, a pair of unlikely bedfellows—the head of the Institute for American Values and a guest scholar at the Brookings Institute—co-authored an op-ed saying that “the time is ripe for a deal that could give each side”—social conservatives and gay-marriage advocates—“what it most needs in the short run, while moving the debate onto a healthier, calmer track in the years ahead.”
It would work like this: Congress would bestow the status of federal civil unions on same-sex marriages and civil unions granted at the state level, thereby conferring upon them most or all of the federal benefits and rights of marriage. But there would be a condition: Washington would recognize only those unions licensed in states with robust religious-conscience exceptions, which provide that religious organizations need not recognize same-sex unions against their will. The federal government would also enact religious-conscience protections of its own. All of these changes would be enacted in the same bill.
For those not immersed in the issue, our proposal may seem puzzling. For those deeply immersed, it may seem suspect. So allow us a few words by way of explanation.
Whatever our disagreements on the merits of gay marriage, we agree on two facts. First, most gay and lesbian Americans feel they need and deserve the perquisites and protections that accompany legal marriage. Second, many Americans of faith and many religious organizations have strong objections to same-sex unions. Neither of those realities is likely to change any time soon.
Would it work? Maybe. But Kevin Eckstrom at Religion News Service isn’t optimistic about the proposal being taken up by Congress.