Vermont & Same-Sex Unions

  By now you've heard the jubilant cries from the gay-rights activists over the victory they have won in Vermont. That state's Supreme Court has ruled that treating homosexual couples differently than heterosexual couples violates the Vermont constitution's guarantee of equal treatment. The court dumped this hot potato in the lap of the legislature to decide what to do. Well, it's a Hobson's choice. The legislature can either extend the definition of marriage to include same-sex marriage, or it can adopt the most sweeping domestic partnership law in the nation. Gay rights advocates are lobbying the Vermont legislature to alter the meaning of "marriage." That's because a domestic partnership law wouldn't affect benefits provided by the Federal government or private employers—it would only provide state benefits. More importantly, if the legislature chooses marriage, it's possible, under the U.S. Constitution's "Full Faith and Credit" clause, that a couple married in Vermont could force other states to recognize their union. So gay couples will flock to Vermont. This prospect is why, in 1996, Congress enacted the Defense of Marriage Act, which relieves states of the obligation to recognize same-sex unions performed in other states. This prospect has also prompted thirty states to adopt their own defense of marriage acts. But even if Vermont opts only for a domestic partnership law, the traditional understanding of marriage is imperiled. That's because this decision, like previous decisions in Hawaii and Canada, treats marriage as nothing more than a status that qualifies people for government benefits. It essentially deconstructs marriage. So the legislators in Vermont have been left with an excruciating decision. They can either recognize "same-sex marriage," abandoning what has been the historic position of civilized societies through the ages, or they can simply redefine marriage. What can Christians and right-thinking moral conservatives do? If your state hasn't adopted it's own Defense of Marriage Act, you can urge your state representatives to adopt one. The sooner the better. Christians and moral conservatives need to argue our Case very well. Christians in particular are stereotyped every time they oppose the gay agenda—we're called homophobic. That's pure nonsense. I visit prisons all over the country and embrace men dying with AIDS. We care deeply about homosexuals, and know that God loves them as He loves every one of us—a point we have to make very clearly. So Christians, and conservatives in general, who care about preserving the best moral traditions of our society, have to point out why all societies have revered and protected marriage. It's the institution that civilizes and protects children. It's society's most basic institution. My friend Bill Bennett made this case brilliantly in an op-ed piece in The Washington Post a couple of years ago. Thanks to Vermont, this debate will rage across the country; we need to be in the vanguard of persuading our friends and neighbors why the traditional view of the family is essential to society. As we approach the new millennium, nothing less than the survival of our own civilized culture is as stake.


Chuck Colson



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