Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ben Shapiro: To Save Traditional Marriage, End State Involvement

I do not always agree with my neighbor and friend, Ben Shapiro, the Breitbart editor, AM 870 talk show host and conservative pundit, but I do with his column posted today at the AM 870 webside, entitled "To Save Traditional Marriage, End State Involvement in Marriage."  The political battle to preserve government benefits for traditional marriage, but not same-sex marriage, is lost.  I know that others whom I respect, such as Michael Medved, will disagree, but the time has come to divorce marriage from government.

Marriage in its essence is a religious covenant or sacrament, sanctioned by God, not by the state.  If the state is involved in marriage, and confers special benefits on married persons, including same-sex couples, then in our current culture and political climate, traditional Christians, Jews and Moslems will be compelled to in effect recognize same-sex marriage.  By removing marriage as a state-sanctioned institution, and leaving it as a purely private relationship, governed by contract and one's personal religious beliefs, that concern is removed.  Those liberal churches and synagogues that wish to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies will be able to do so, removing the argument that traditional marriage advocates are trying to impose our religious beliefs on them.  Those traditional religious institutions that will not recognize same-sex marriage will not be compelled to do so.

I do believe that there will ultimately will be a societal cost to pay for same-sex marriage, even as a purely private institution, although the adverse effects may be subtle and take many years to manifest themselves.  It is possible that the damage to society will be difficult to identify and measure even once it occurs.  Think about the effects that past "progressive victories" such as unrestricted abortion, easy availability of contraception and no-fault divorce laws, have had on our society in the last 50 years.  Although progressives will not acknowledge it, those consequences include a loss of respect for life, promiscuity, epidemics of sexually transmitted diseases, and, ironically, an explosion in births out of wedlock and single-parent households.  So I am not unmindful of the potential damage from fully separating Church and State when it comes to marriage.

However, that risk seems preferable, to me at least, to having the State officially recognize same-sex unions as marriage.

If, contrary to what Ben would advocate, the public determines that there are sound policy considerations to conferring special benefits on certain types of unions, the appropriate way to confer those benefits is through recognition of civil unions, not through state involvement in a religious sacrament.

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