February 19, 2010
That quiet alarm you hear ringing...
Posted by: Chris
...is from the real extant threat against the traditional institution of marriage, and it isn't coming from the gays.
A heterosexual couple in Austria is fighting for the right to enter into a registered civil partnership - introduced for homosexual couples in January 2010. Under current law the couple will be denied that right - but they have vowed to take the case to the country's constitutional court to overturn what they says is a discriminatory legislation.
Austria introduced civil unions for gay couples on January 1, affording them some of the rights enjoyed by their heterosexual counterparts. The new legislation, passed after weeks of wrangling between the ruling Social Democrats and their conservative coalition partner in government, gives same-sex couples a status similar to traditional marriage but different in a number of respects. For instance, there are less strict rules in the event of a divorce.
The heterosexual couple in question argues that this is a more modern form of union - which simply suits them better than a traditional marriage. And if it's offered to gay couples, why shouldn't it be an option for them as well? The issue at stake, they argue, is standing up against discrimination.
This is what irrational fear over same-sex marriage have wrought. Across Europe, and in many U.S. jurisdictions, government have adopted forms of "marriage lite" because they aren't ready to allow gay couples full marriage equality.
Whether called "domestic partnerships," "civil partnerships," "civil unions," "PACS" or some other name, they have evolved from the halfway measures toward marriages they were originally intended to be. Instead, these weigh stations on the road to equality have become a loosy-goosy alternative for gay and straight couples alike that represents a serious challenge to traditional marriage, especially in Europe.
In this week's Cato Institute panel (video now available here or after the jump for this post), Maggie Gallagher warned gays that they would have a difficult time finding a place among conservatives when they insist on remaking such a fundamental institution. What she can't or won't see is that gays do not want to remake the institution, they want to join it because they believe in it. They revere it, as Andrew Sullivan said in response.
Rather than become more uppity, as Gallagher implied, the gay movement has become remarkably more conservative. From its beginnings in sexual liberation and radical counterculturalism, the movement has sharpened its focus on what the vast majority of gay Americans want -- to participate as equals in the fundamental, conservative institutions they grew up believing in: marriage, the family, the Boy Scouts, the church, the military, and so on.
The question becomes how much Gallagher's social conservative allies are willing to tear away at those institution just to keep us out.
Video of the Cato Institute policy forum on whether there's a place for gays in the conservative movement, featuring David Boaz of Cato, Tory MP Nick Herbert, gay blogger Andrew Sullivan of Atlantic Monthly, and conservative columnist Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization for Marriage.
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