This Just In: Gay Marriage Ban Could Impair Contract Rights


Virginia Gov. Timothy Kaine is against a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage because he thinks it might adversely affect unmarried heterosexual couples. Virginia law already bans gay marriage, but supporters of the amendment, which voters will consider in November, say it's necessary to prevent same-sex couples who get hitched elsewhere from sneaking across the border and demanding equal treatment. Kaine, who repeats the ritualistic equation of marriage with one man plus one woman, seems to be fine with all that, but he worries that the amendment's broad language could limit the options of heterosexuals living in sin. He says the amendment, which forbids recognition of "another union, partnership, or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage,"
could impair "the constitutional rights of individuals to enter into private contracts, and also…the discretion of employers to extend certain benefits, such as health care coverage, to unmarried couples."

Isn't a ban on gay marriage supposed to impair contract rights? I thought that was the whole idea. If the real objection to gay marriage is that individuals and private institutions would be forced to treat homosexual couples the same as heterosexual couples, maybe the answer is more freedom rather than less. Letting employers, hospitals, insurers, etc. decide for themselves which unions to recognize ought to address the complaint that gay marriage is being foisted on people with moral objections to it. And if people like Kaine think the contractual aspects of marriage should be available to unmarried couples, all that's left are government-granted privileges such as joint tax filing status, which can either be eliminated or extended on a neutral basis, assuming there are sound policy reasons for keeping them.