By now, everyone knows that gay marriage is coming to the Empire State. Obviously, there’s very little good to be drawn from this. To me, there is very little hope of reclaiming the tide. The ideology that accepts gay marriage is so tied into acceptance of divorce and contraception that it would take a much more radical shift to turn the tide. While this could happen (and I have faith in the new priests coming that they can effect this at least within the Church), rebuilding culture takes time and seems likely that the pendulum will have to swing all the way before it will swing back.
So other than rebuilding our culture from the ground up, what political strategies are there to pursue? Trying to fight state by state is one option, but this presumes that states under DOMA can be allowed to not recognize gay marriages from other states. This means we have to put our faith in the court system, and that seems dubious to me. The population size of New York, as well as its mobility, means the issue of full faith and credit will come to a head sooner rather than later. There’s the federal option, but I see no desire from the GOP to fight this fight, particularly from the libertarian wing of the party.
The only other option I see is eliminating the secular institution of marriage altogether. This makes a lot of sense. What exactly is the government’s interest in marriage anymore? Currently, government and society is exerting a lot of resources on this institution: the number of laws and divorce courts, not to mention divorce lawyers is tremendous. But what is government getting back? Love & commitment might be nice values, but you can have a ceremony and make your commitment without a government seal of approval for the commitment (& the break-up). When it was only hetereosexuals allowed to marry, the argument could be made for children (ie we want to provide a good environment for the creation & raising of children), but with gay marriage that’s no longer viable. Perhaps you could still argue family (as gay couples can do IVF & surrogacy) but what effect marriage has in this is dubious, particularly with the liberalization of divorce laws. Another argument for marriage was to protect women from being left penniless in a divorce, but as stay at home moms dwindle and as economic opportunities for women continue to grow, this justification is weaker, especially with the popularity of pre-nups that create separate property regimes anyway. So why is government still in this business? What goods are secured through marriage that cannot be secured without secular marriage?
The main goal for pushing this from a Catholic perspective is simple: protecting our priests from persecution. Although the New York Republicans supported gay marriage because they felt the protections for religious were strong enough, it’s only a matter of time before a priest is sued, have their license to perform marriages, or even arrested for denying marriage to a gay couple. There’s no room in the ideology of the gay rights movement for religions to continue to grant marriage only according to their “hetereosexist” traditions. If government gets out of the business, then priests and other religious will be protected.
There’s also the added benefit of giving marriage back over to religion. If government continues to stay in the marriage business government will continue to be a vehicle for forcing social changes, changes that are often for the worse. Government will no longer be able to impose new visions on the country. Instead, people can have whatever ceremonies and whatever commitments they want (this probably would include bigamy, but you have to figure government will permit this next anyway). In this scenario, the Church will be better able to discuss its version of marriage if it doesn’t have to fight against a government-imposed narrative.
Still, it seems a sad day when government’s marriage is so diluted that we have to give it up entirely, so I’d like to see what people here think. Are there still reasons for government to provide the institution of marriage in a world of gay marriage? Or would it be better for the government to get out of it entirely?