I can solve the gay marriage debate

Gay couples celebrated last weekend as Irish voters legalized same-sex unions.
Gay couples celebrated last weekend as Irish voters legalized same-sex unions. AP

For years, I’ve had this crazy idea for solving the gay marriage debate. It’s called following the Constitution.

Under this revolutionary plan, states wishing to grant equal status to gay unions may do so, while states wishing to maintain unique legal recognition for man-woman marriages are equally free.

This is what the Bill of Rights requires. Matters unaddressed in the Constitution are left to the people and to the states. But in an era when the Founders’ logic is battered by social engineers in robes, there may be only one solution: Get government out of the marriage business altogether.

This idea, currently murmuring around some state legislatures, earns nods of approval across the political spectrum, from gay-rights advocates to conservative Christians.

This is because the process of marriage itself has never been the real issue. Gays may marry in any state they wish at any time. The only battleground is over government recognition of those unions.

Gays and those supportive of so-called “marriage equality” are fighting for same-sex marriages to be viewed equally to heterosexual unions. Gay marriage opponents realize they have no business blocking what others seek to do with their lives, but they object to government giving a seal of approval to a practice they consider morally objectionable.

Marriage privatization satisfies both sides – by placing government where it most often belongs: out of our business. Licensure is a condition placed by government that says you cannot do something (drive a car, practice law, shoot a deer) until you have met certain conditions.

The gay marriage battle might be the off-ramp we have long needed to reassert marriage as the business of the participating individuals and no one else.

A bill returning marriage to the province of personal and religious choice is rolling through the legislature in Alabama, where it passed the Senate 22-3. It provides for marriage contracts to be filed with county probate judges when marriages occur, with no state imprimatur as to the worthiness of what citizens have chosen to do.

At long last, busybody judges would no longer have the power to controvert the will of states opposed to government blessing of gay marriage. Of course, proponents of traditional marriage would no longer have a state thumbs-up for their unions either, but a government OK has never been what made traditional marriage sacred.

There are details to be worked out, to be sure. What should marriage contracts say about children, for example? But it is hard to imagine marriage privatization establishing a more hazardous minefield than the divorce-laden wreckage currently overseen by the judiciary.

Attitudes are indeed changing rapidly on the issue of gay marriage, and individuals are free to board that high-speed train if they wish. But those wishing to maintain their preference for traditional marriage should be equally free to do so.

Maybe we could call it “belief equality.”

Mark Davis is a North Texas-based conservative talk show host. Email him at