That’s the question being posed by Maryland state senator, Jamie
Raskin. In an effort to thwart the arguments of those opposed to
same sex marriage, which are based on religious values, same sex
marriage advocates in Maryland are employing a new tactic to obtain
parity between the legal rights afforded to straight married
couples and their unable-to-get-married LGBTQ counterparts.
The proposal would put all couples, regardless of sexual
orientation on equal footing in what would be called a “valid
domestic partnership” in the state’s family law code.
What lawmakers are hoping to do with such an initiative is to
completely discount the religious arguments against equal marriage.
If a state can’t grant a “marriage” but only a secular union,
and only churches, synagogues and mosques can perform actual
“marriages” then there should be no conflict.
Not surprisingly, opponents disagree, saying that the passage of
such a law would be an even greater departure from
“traditional” marriage. Despite the naysayers, I think this
bill could help move support toward another bill on Maryland’s
Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, which
would expand civil marriage to include same-sex couples while
preserving the rights of religious institutions and leaders to
perform and recognize only those marriages that are consistent with
the tenets of their faith.
In social movement history, the creation of an ideological other,
usually in the form of an extreme idea, made what was initially
deemed a radical notion palatable when compared to the alternative.
Malcolm X’s doctrine of attaining racial justice “by any means
necessary” helped make Martin Luther King’s radical message of
racial equality more acceptable. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial
Court’s ruling that resulted in the state’s granting of same
sex marriages made civil unions a viable – and less threatening
– alternative to equal marriage opponents.
The introduction of a bill that essentially does away with the
civil institution of marriage, mandating that it become a purely
religious practice, might be radical enough to make the extension
of civil marriage to include same sex couples more palatable for
the opposition. I certainly hope so…