One social area where the Republican Party needs to reevaluate its stance is the issue of gay marriage. For two major reasons, the GOP is facing a losing battle. For the sake of electoral success, the party needs to reevaluate its current position.
First and foremost, the party is fighting a losing battle. It is inevitable that the rights of gays will grow over time. Currently this is occurring across many states. The inevitability is easy to see if one studies American history. Over time, all minority groups have gained more rights and equal treatment. Even if at one point or another there have been set backs, the overall trend of history is constant. The simple logic behind this is that a minority has a lot to gain by fighting for his or her rights; while relatively speaking the majority does not have a lot to lose by granting those rights. The minority will be able to fight indefinitely; while the majority will eventually tire. Ultimately, the minority will win this war of attrition.
Because of this inevitability it is fruitless for the GOP to waste its time and energy. Not only does it divert resources from other issues and causes, but it puts the party on the losing side of history. This is a cost that is too high to pay. Despite the fact the fact that it was the Republicans that freed African-Americans from slavery, the party is portrayed as the loser in the culture wars and thus, at least for the foreseeable future, precluded from the African-American vote. By fighting gay marriage, the party only provides fodder to the left to incorrectly portray the Republicans as intolerant.
Secondly, the current party stance is inconsistent with the intellectual basis of American conservatism. Conservatives call for a limited government role in the individual’s life. The government should be small and efficient, staying out of the private lives of its citizens. Unlike liberals, conservatives argue that in regards to the vast majority of issues individuals are capable of making their own decisions and leading their own lives as they see fit. However, the current gay marriage platform flies in the face of this. It calls for immense government control over a major part of many American’s lives.
Social conservatives attempt to justify this by turning to their religion and emphasizing the alleged societal costs. The ‘family values’ viewpoint asserts that gay marriage is wrong (according to the Bible) and damaging to society. Accordingly, the standard, historical heterosexual family is the basis of society and needs to continue in order to preserve the integrity and sanctity of the country. However, a modified approach to gay marriage is in no way inconsistent with the strong family values held by the majority of America. Furthermore, a modified approach would be more intellectually consistent with limited government conservatism.
An easy solution would be for the Republican Party to separate the issue of marriage into its two natural components: ceremonial marriage and legal rights. One of the roots of the current problem is that these two issues are intermingled. A logical Republican alternative would be to remove the state from any sort of marriage. If marriage is truly a spiritual and community-based institution it should be left to the churches, mosques, synagogues, and other religious organizations to decide how it functions. What is left is the legal rights component; something that is naturally a function of the state.
Essentially, this allows the state to only play a role in determining the legal rights and obligations of an individual in regards to his or her partner. Everyone can get a civil union from the government- where they can choose one partner with whom they can file taxes, receive employment benefits, make health decisions and the like. The spiritual institution of marriage is then left for private communities and religious organizations to determine.
Critics will claim that this issue can’t be easily compartmentalized in this fashion. The strongest arguments point to supposed societal damages caused by gay partnership. Specifically, raising children is one main issue. However, there are two flaws with this argument. First, many of these rights are already given to gays. For instance, they can often adopt. We have yet to see a breakdown of society or a pervasion of the younger generations as a result. Secondly, there are much broader problems with the American family than sexual orientation. Divorce rates are astronomical and many parents do not have a clue how to raise children. Republicans and America are better served by focusing on educating individuals on how to responsibly build a strong, morally-upright family. Right now we spend far too little time learning about family, child rearing, and inter-spousal relationships – three of the most central facets of American life.
A combination of government civil unions, religious marriages, and increased education to establish strong family values will lead to a better Republican Party. With such a policy the GOP will be able to speak to a wide swath of America. Furthermore, it will maintain an intellectual consistency. Lastly, it will help develop a healthier America.