Ky. Voices: Protect religious marriage by giving rights to all

The Rev. Chuck Queen is senior pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Frankfort.
The Rev. Chuck Queen is senior pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Frankfort.

Conservative analyst and commentator Charles Krauthammer, in a recent piece in The Washington Post, lamented that in striking the down the Defense of Marriage Act, the Supreme Court enumerated equal protection as one rationale for its decision.

He argues, rightly, that the rationale of equal protection will lead eventually to nationalizing gay marriage.

We have turned a corner. While conservative states will rev up their stands against gay marriage as they did when the Supreme Court ruled segregation laws unconstitutional, their ultimate defeat on the issue of gay marriage is inevitable.

Just as there are key transitional stages in biological evolution, so we have now entered a transitional stage in our spiritual and moral evolution, at least in our part of the world.

The tide has changed. Recent polling indicates that as much as 80 percent of the younger generation now favor gay marriage.

What's a conservative to do?

In an excellent piece in Baptists Today executive editor John Pierce contends that both progressives and conservatives could agree that government should get out of the marriage business altogether, because "holy matrimony belongs to the church (and other religious communities), not justices of the peace or any other government official."

Distinguished Kentucky author Wendell Berry argues the same point. In a presentation at Georgetown College, Berry said that "the sexual practices of consenting adults ought not to be subjected to the government's approval or disapproval, and that domestic partnerships in which people who live together and devote their lives to one another ought to receive the spousal rights, protections and privileges the government allows to heterosexual couples."

In other words, for the purpose of equal protection under the law (tax benefits, inheritance rights, etc.) the government should treat all civil unions and domestic partnerships equally. The broad category of civil unions would include same-sex partnerships, domestic partnerships and religious marriages.

It should be left solely to religious bodies to determine who is married, according to their rules of faith and practice. Religious marriages would obviously be recognized by the government as civil unions, but civil unions would not be limited to marriage.

Would this not solve the controversy?

Marriage is a sacred union most often performed in religious institutions by a religious leader. God is invoked in the process. Let religious communities set their own standards for marriage and let government govern without discrimination.

Any religious community that believes in the separation of church and state could champion this modest proposal.

If conservatives continue to fight same-sex marriage on current grounds, they will lose. It is just a matter of time before a federal mandate will overturn state laws prohibiting gay marriage.

Eventually, all 50 states will find themselves on the right side of history, swept along by the winds of a spiritual and moral evolution, even if they cross over kicking and screaming.

The author blogs at http://www.afreshperspective-chuck.blogspot.com.