(Page 2 of 2)
Banning same-sex marriage nationally, as President Bush and many conservatives would do, is hardly a conservative approach; it risks putting marriage on the road to cultural irrelevance. On the other hand, national enactment would be an irreversible leap into the unknown. There ought to be a way to try same-sex marriage without betting the whole country one way or the other. And there is. Try gay marriage in a state or two. Say, Massachusetts.
Massachusetts is one of only a handful of states where gay marriage can legally happen (most states have enacted pre-emptive bans). Its law prohibits marrying out-of-state gay couples, so the experiment will be local. Massachusetts is gay-friendly, allowing same-sex marriage a fair trial. And it gives the final say to the voters, not judges or politicians or bureaucrats. In short, Massachusetts is the perfect laboratory for an experiment that needs to happen.
Starting Monday, and probably for years to come, America will no longer have a uniform national definition of marriage. That is nobody's first choice. Conservatives wish the issue had never arisen and hope, unrealistically, that a constitutional amendment will put the cork back in the bottle. Many gay-marriage proponents wish, just as unrealistically, that the courts could settle the issue quickly by fiat.
But neither a constitutional amendment nor a Supreme Court order could resolve what is, at bottom, a fundamental schism in the social consensus: Older people see same-sex marriage as a contradiction, and younger people see opposite-sex-only marriage as discrimination. Reconciling marriage with homosexuality, equality, and society's needs will be messy, but, as Robert Frost said, the only way out is through. Massachusetts is as good a starting place as the country could have hoped for.