Marriage, the Federalism Solution
The debate over gay marriage isn't really about same-sex couples forming a union as much as it is about the definition of marriage being between one man and one woman and the larger issue of whether the will of the people in individual states may be thwarted by the government through the judiciary. Since gay marriage was not even remotely on the Founding Fathers' radar screen, who may marry is not among the powers granted to the federal government. As such, it is relegated to the states, at least according to the Constitution.
I personally have no problem with gay couples forming civil unions. I have many gay friends who are in monogamous, loving relationships, who adopt and raise children and are productive, law-abiding members of society. Should leaders of the gay marriage juggernaut decide to press for such unions without changing the definition of marriage, I suspect they would manage to peel off enough support to significantly advance their cause. However, it is not the question of civil unions that drives gay activists, but rather changing the basic definition of marriage.
That path is fraught with complications, for once the precedent is set the entire definition of marriage comes into question. If marriage is a civil right, why not extend that right to other types of non-traditional relationships, such as polygamous or incestuous relationships or unions between adults and children or people and animals? What about the continued encroachment of Sharia law on our Constitutionally defined legal system? Might redefinition of marriage open the door to Muslim men-but not women-taking multiple wives?
And what will happen to tax breaks for married couples, which are designed to provide a stable platform for producing and raising future generations? Perhaps the tax benefits accorded to married couples should be eliminated entirely, while maintaining deductions for dependents, be they children or spouses. Are we ready to take that step?
The fact is that these types of questions have not been given due consideration by activists, the news media and gay marriage supporters. By avoiding a problematic redefinition of marriage and enacting legislation at the state level permitting civil unions between same sex-couples, gays would have full access to the rights and responsibilities of married heterosexual couples, without opening a can of worms.
But that is not what the activists want. They want acceptance, regardless of whether such acceptance runs counter to the religious beliefs of their fellow citizens. And acceptance to the activists means nothing less than redefinition of marriage.
This is not about civil rights; it's about power politics forcing cultural change before there is a mandate to do so.
A wise decision by the Supreme Court would be to kick the issue back to the states, while upholding the right of citizens to overrule their politicians through the referendum process.