It could happen here

In connection with the British judges’ decision barring as foster parents people who disapprove of homosexuality, I posited that making gay marriage a Constitutionally protected civil right could expose conservative faiths to lawsuits.  Many had a hard time envisioning this, but legal expert Richard Epstein had exactly the same thought:

To this day there are thoughtful people in religious groups that continue to hold fast against gay marriage, and their rights to determine what happens to their membership are necessarily impacted by this decision, for there is nothing in the curt statement from the Obama administration which explains why the Constitution should not be read to require the President of the Congress to impose obligations on these organizations to accept gay couples into their ranks. Orthodox Jews and Roman Catholics beware!

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  • Tonestaple

    I don’t know what the answer is historically, but as far as I am concerned, the only reason to have the state involved in marriage at all is for the protection of children.  With respect to dissolution, adults can use prenups, but someone has to look out for the kids.  Therefore, as long as gays are allowed to adopt children, there must be some provision for gay social partnerships.  The only solution that I see working that will avoid the problem of the state trying to amend church doctrine is a two-tiered system. 

    Anyone who wants can register a civil union with the state.  If the union is to be dissolved, the state will have rules for dissolving it and for what is to happen to the children.  People who want to get married in the eyes of their religion can do that in a church with the church’s blessing.  The church can have its own set of rules for dissolution and remarriage, if the parties involved want the remarriage to also be blessed by the church.

    It occurs to me that if people get married in a church but don’t register a civil union, we might have a problem, so would it work to make a church marriage automatically incorporate registration of a civil union?  That way, there are still rules for civil dissolution and a way of making sure that the children are cared for.

  • Libby

    Maggie Gallagher has been concerned about this for a while, and here’s a great article of hers that was in the Weekly Standard (5/16/2006) about what happened to several religious institutions in Boston after marriage was redefined: http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/012/191kgwgh.asp