Perhaps more surprisingly, one prominent social conservative group, the Family Research Council, has come out against the FMA, saying it does not go far enough, that it would not create a constitutional ban on domestic partnership legislation. OK, but if in a few months Massachusetts judges impose gay marriage, and a flood of lawsuits urge (plausibly) that the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution requires every state to recognize Massachusetts' gay marriages, how will the FRC prevent it? The mere existence of a powerful, coherent, well-organized campaign with broad public support acts as a check on rogue judges tempted to make a name for themselves by reorganizing marriage. Whereas the reverse -- jumbled, incoherent, factional infighting -- can only encourage judicial experiments.
Gay activists, meanwhile, are pushing hard for gay marriage because they understand very well that marriage is not private, it is normative. People can live as they choose. We tolerate all kinds of sexual couplings in our society, but marriage is something different: It is the way that law, culture and society actively affirm the importance of one particular kind of sexual union. In legislating gay marriage, America would no longer merely tolerate or accept homosexuality. We would (all of us, as a society) actively celebrate it.
In the process, we would transform the very meaning of marriage at a time when this institution is in crisis. Why does marriage exist? Does it have anything to do with encouraging men and women to create new families? Does it have anything to do with minimizing fatherlessness? Does it have something to do with telling young men and women that there is something unique and special about placing their lives and their futures in the service of this idea of permanent, fruitful love?
My own belief is that if American civilization is to prosper in the long run, we need to recapture and deepen our understanding of the basic meaning of marriage.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.