Yesterday I had been reading a rather annoying article, which I don't particularly feel like linking to, urging conservatives to present themselves (somehow) differently in the pro-marriage fight. The author was being fairly non-specific and was just urging pro-marriage activists to find a way to bill their fight as "progressive" rather than as "defending marriage." (Evidently he thinks the word "defending" won't focus-group well.)
Anyway, as I was cooking dinner I was asking myself, in a spirit of charity (!) what sort of "positive" efforts he might have in mind, so we could say we're being positive and progressive rather than negative and defensive. There was some mention of no-fault divorce laws, so I thought, well, maybe one idea was to try to roll back no-fault divorce laws. That this would be some sort of positive program of strengthening marriage that pro-marriage forces could try to take credit for. (Though honestly, in terms of self-presentation, does anyone really expect the public at large to think, "Oh, how nice, they're not just negative, they also are trying to roll back no-fault divorce laws, so now I feel better about the people who think marriage should continue to be between one man and one woman"? I don't think so either.)
Then it hit me.
In jurisdictions where homosexual "marriage" is recognized by the state, we don't want to do that. I never had thought of this before.
Think of Lisa Miller. Think of others who have left the homosexual lifestyle. Do we really want to strengthen the legal ties that bind them to that lifestyle? Do we really want to make it harder for them to break away? Do we really want to require them to remain "married" to a homosexual partner unless they can prove severe abuse or infidelity?
Let's face it: The desire to strengthen marriage is at odds with anything that will strengthen the legal ties of "marriage."
A legal situation in which pseudo-marriage is put on a par with real marriage places the defenders of real marriage in an impossible position as far as trying to make positive legal attempts to strengthen real marriage. (Sermons and counseling--so long as it is counseling under the aegis of a church and can be restricted only to really married couples--are a different matter.) Think of the covenant marriage initiative. It would be an obscenity for a homosexual couple to get a "covenant marriage" making it even harder for one member to get legally free of the other. Yet I'll bet dollars to donuts that there will be some homosexual couples, probably lesbians and probably only a small number, who will get "covenant marriages" in states where they exist, if only for symbolic reasons: "See, we're using the conservatives' initiative against them."
Now, except for the covenant marriage initiative, there are very few attempts to make it harder to get out of marriage that lie within the realm of practical politics, so the whole question may be moot. From the perspective of real marriage, this is a bad thing. But from the perspective of pseudo-marriage, it is not a bad thing. It is a necessity. Repentance shouldn't be blocked by the state. And at least when we think about what to urge in the public arena and how to strategize, we need to bear this in mind.
What a mess. An impossible mess.
(Note: As usual, this is not an invitation to trolls from a certain fever swamp of the blogosphere to come in making misogynistic comments. You gents haven't been seen around here for a while, so perhaps this warning is unnecessary, but the topic of no-fault divorce may pop up on your radar somehow, and this is just a warning that such comments are not welcome.)