Arriving at a Compromise on Gay Marriage

Jonathan Rauch joined David Blankenhorn and Neal Conan on Talk of the Nation to discuss a federal compromise on the issue of same-sex marriage

NEAL CONAN, host: Now to the Talk of the Nation opinion page. At this point, gay marriage remains amongst the most popularized, best to find battlefronts in the culture wars. This was seen most recently in the bitter battle over California’s same-sex marriage ban, Proposition 8. Now, two proponents from very different perspective have reached a compromise. David Blankenhorn opposes gay marriage. Jonathan Rauch supports it. Their op-ed titled “A Reconciliation on Gay Marriage” ran in the New York Times recently. So, is there common ground on gay marriage? What are you willing to give up?

David Blankenhorn is President of the Institute for American Values, Author of the Future of Marriage. He joins us from our bureau in New York. Nice to have you with us today.

DAVID BLANKENHORN: Good to be with you.

CONAN: And Jonathan Rauch is a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution, author of Gay marriage. Why It’s Good for Gays, Good for Straights and Good For America. He’s with us from the studio at the Brookings Institution here in Washington – and nice to speak with you again.

JONATHAN RAUCH: Thank you, Neal.

CONAN: And David Blankenthorn – Blankenhorn , excuse me – can you describe the deal you’ve reached?

Mr. BLANKENHORN: Well, basically it’s a federal recognition of civil unions, and all the benefits that implies and on which it would do something, although not everything that they advocates of gay marriage would like. And then on the other side, there would be a religious exemption, so that religious organizations could be confident that they would not be required to support same-sex unions.

So, that’s basically it. Jonathan and I – well, he deserves a lot of credit for having really taken the lead on this. And we’ve had a good conversation and think that maybe it won’t solve every problem but at least it might lower the temperature a bit and give each side something that it feels is important.

CONAN: So, Jonathan Rauch everybody would be given – whether they’re man and woman or two men or two women, whatever – would get the benefits of this federal civil ceremony?

Mr. RAUCH: Well, of course, there are different ways to do it in principle, but what David and I imagine happening is that if a state passes a civil union or a same-sex marriage arrangement, the federal government would recognize that, for federal purposes, as a federal civil union, provided that the state had passed religious conscience protections – protecting faith-based organizations from having to recognize same-sex unions and that the federal government would pass the same protection. But it would still be up to the states to decide whether to have civil unions or whether to have same sex marriage at all.

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