Time for Civil Unions?

At the risk of certain people calling for revocation of my conservative decoder ring, I happen to think Allan Kittleman’s proposal for civil unions is a good idea.

As I’ve explained in the past about my position on gay marriage:

I haven’t fully reconciled the tension between liberty and virtue (order) that this issue aggravates. Anyone who knows anything about conservatism knows that the tension between liberty and virtue is the animating intellectual argument within the conservative movement. One that proves that there is no settled conservative “dogma.”

I tend to fall on the side that says committed homosexual couples deserve the same legal rights as married heterosexuals—visitation, medical decisions, property rights etc… Brian, Greg and I discussed this question over at The Conservative Refuge earlier this year.

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However, my conservative temperament leads me to be skeptical of changing an institution that has shown throughout human history to be a fundamental building block of civilized society. I admit that I don’t think that gay marriage will doom the republic, but I will concede that I may very well be mistaken.

It seems to me—at least from the published reports—that Kittleman’s bill would assure that Maryland won’t discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation when it comes to recognizing civil rights—marriage excepted. Although I know many of my conservative friends oppose civil unions, I would think the concept would appeal to them, as it is both protects the definition of marriage, and checks the power of the state to interfere in an individual’s private lives.

This tension isn’t limited to Maryland conservatives. See Matt Lewis’ Politics Daily piece on the Family Research Council’s boycott of February’s Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) conference because of the inclusion of the gay conservative organization, GOProud.

Gay marriage/civil unions also pose problems for Maryland Democrats. Richard Cross deftly points out that opposition to gay marriage is a passionate for African Americans–a key Democratic constituency. Cross also argues that gay marriage may not be the guaranteed certainty it’s proponents think.

It will be interesting to watch how Kittleman’s bill and the gay marriage proposals play out over the legislative session.
However, in the grand scheme of things, Maryland has much more pressing problems, like structural deficits, unsustainable bond debt, corporatism, and a dangerous intolerance to economic liberty. I hope conservatives can coalesce around and fight together on those issues.

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