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Why not just have civil unions for everyone?

Today's question: Why should the state recognize marriage at all? Wouldn't it be better to leave marriage to religious groups and instead have civil unions for everyone? Previously, Broyles and Jean offered their views of what would happen to married same-sex couples if Proposition 8 passes and debated the possible national ripple effects of a gay-marriage ban in California.

Upholding traditional marriage preserves common goodPoint: Dean R. Broyles

The purpose of government is to promote good and punish evil. Our founding fathers wrote the U.S. Constitution to promote the "general welfare," also known as the common good. The highest and best use of the law is to promote the common good of society.

For 5,000 years of recorded human history, marriage has been defined by every civilization as the union of a man and a woman. It has been universally recognized that the concept of family, based on man-woman marriage, is the fundamental building block of society. Marriage is good. Family is good. This truth is supported historically, biologically, psychologically and sociologically -- as well as by observation and common sense. Strong families are fundamental to the social fabric. Weak and dysfunctional families tear and shred the fabric. Government promotes good when it protects that which is good.

Marriage is also good for children. All the studies show that children thrive with both a mother and a father. Neither is expendable. The commitments of marriage bring stability to children, and marriage is the means by which children are nurtured and socialized to become contributing members of society. Children from intact mom-and-dad families have significantly lower incidents of premarital sex, underage drinking, school expulsion, shoplifting, fighting and other negative behaviors.

This is not about religion imposing its morality on others, Lorri. It is truly about what is best for everyone.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that only about 2% of the population identifies itself as homosexual (pdf). Research also shows that most homosexuals do not choose to marry when given the opportunity. Thoughtful homosexuals have actually publicly stated that it is wrong for the community to force society to redefine marriage. In other countries where same-sex marriage has been legalized, typically only 1% to 5% of the homosexual population opts for it (pdf). Furthermore, the "divorce" rate for same-sex marriages is significantly higher than for traditional marriage. Why? The simple truth is that the commitments of marriage and family are fundamentally incompatible with the sexual lifestyle of most homosexuals. So why then should we experiment with the redefinition of marriage to satisfy the desires of 5% of 2% of the population -- or 0.001% of our society?

Man-woman marriage and family clearly serve the broader interests of society, the common good. Same-sex "marriage," on the other hand, primarily serves the narrow self-centered interests those few same-sex couples who desire to redefine their relationship as marriage. Furthermore, as I demonstrated Monday, the powerful homosexual legal agenda poses a clear and present threat to fundamental, well-established civil rights, namely free speech and religious freedom. We can't afford this experiment. The collateral damage will be too destructive. That is why I urge readers to join me in voting yes on Proposition 8.

Dean R. Broyles is president and chief counsel of the Western Center for Law and Policy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection and promotion of religious freedom, parental rights and other civil liberties.

Prop. 8 is a major distraction from real California issuesCounterpoint: Lorri L. Jean

Gosh, Dean, after that unresponsive diatribe replete with inaccuracies and more outright lies, it's hard to know where to begin. I'll start by stating one truth: All reputable studies show that children raised by gay or lesbian parents are just as healthy and well adjusted as children raised by straight parents. The American Medical Assn., the American Psychiatric Assn. and the American Academy of Pediatrics all agree.

Your assertion that only 2% of the population is gay is disputed by the very study you've cited, which makes it clear that at least 6% of men and closer to 11% of women are gay. But whatever the percentage may be, justifying discrimination against any group because it's smaller than the majority is not only wrong, it's dangerous.

Now I'll do what we were asked to do and answer the question that was posed.

I would be perfectly fine if the state were to get out of the business of licensing marriages. Religious political extremists like you, Dean, usually don't agree with this very reasonable suggestion because religions that support equal rights would be free to continue to marry same-sex couples. Sadly, while the leaders of the Proposition 8 campaign and you support their own religious freedom, they do not support the religious freedom of those who disagree with them.

As long as the state stays in the business of issuing marriage licenses, however, it should do so fairly and not single out one group of people for different treatment under the law. In fact, marriage is a civil right. That's why longtime civil rights leaders like Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP, and organizations such as the Japanese American Citizens League, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the California NAACP, the National Congress of Black Women, the Anti-Defamation League and many others oppose Proposition 8.

They are joined by business leaders, chambers of commerce, the California Teachers Assn., the California Nurses Assn., the United Farm Workers, countless churches and synagogues and virtually every major newspaper in the state. Sen. Dianne Feinstein also staunchly opposes Proposition 8, saying, "Proposition 8 would be a terrible mistake for California. ... It's about discrimination, and we must always say no to that." All of these people know that Proposition 8 would be bad for California.

That takes me back to a question you asked in your Monday post: "Which serves the common good ... free speech and religious freedom or gay rights?" By now I hope it's clear to everyone that this is a silly, false choice. Threats to free speech and religious freedom are red herrings that have been used for more than a century to deny civil rights to people. Real threats to the common good are unemployment, poverty and access to healthcare. But rather than tackle these issues, as the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center does, proponents of Proposition 8 will likely spend more than $35 million -- not to feed the hungry, care for the sick and house the homeless, but to prevent two loving, committed adults from marrying each other. Shame on you all.

Even worse, to defend our right to marry and counter the campaign of misinformation, organizations like mine have been forced to raise equal amounts of money and divert funds from programs that do care for the needy, including homeless youth who have been abandoned by parents who believe like you do, Dean. These are parents so cold-hearted and narrow minded that they have thrown their own children onto the streets simply because they are gay. So, even when we defeat Proposition 8 -- and I do believe a majority of Californians will do the right thing by voting no -- the underprivileged in our society will still lose. As far as I'm concerned, that's the real "collateral damage" of your misguided and deceitful effort to enshrine bigotry into the state Constitution.

I hope Californians will rise up and say, "Enough!" and vote no on Proposition 8. Maybe then, Dean, you and the people behind Proposition 8 will focus on pursuits that actually help people in need instead of trying to impose their views on everyone else.

Lorri L. Jean is an attorney and chief executive of the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center.

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