Viewpoint: We should encourage stable relationships for all — at least civically

Gay marriage is relatively low on my priority list when it comes to national political issues. However, in the spirit of open inquiry and to foster debate here at Baylor, a Christian university, I’d like to share my evolving views on this issue.

For the longest time, I was a standard anti gay-marriage conservative.

I viewed the government’s interest in perpetuating traditional marriage as rooted in the idea that marriage is closely tied with child-rearing (yes, I know there are plenty of great single parents and even gay parents out there) rather than a way for society to validate peoples’ relationships.

Similarly, I would have opposed gay adoption out of the belief that, all things being equal, kids are better off with a mom and a dad.

My views have not changed on that ideal, nor has my traditional, and I believe correct, interpretation of the Bible regarding God’s design for marriage.

However, those views were not, and are still not, sufficiently informative for me to come up with my opinion on what marriage should be as a civic institution.

The first step in my evolution was to accept and be in favor of civil unions. Seemingly a no-brainer, I concluded that the practical benefits of marriage — hospital visitations, greater ease in creating financial ties, etc. — should not be denied to anybody. However, marriage was still something more, and I figured the government still had a pressing interest in shoring up the institution of traditional marriage for the betterment of future generations of kids.

Over time, questions that I was able to shrug off before popped into my head more frequently. Divorce hurts kids, but would I really like to repeal no-fault divorce and go back to a time when people got stuck in sometimes-abusive marriages or concocted fabrications to get divorce approval from the government?

No. Would I support strict morality tests to ensure that people adhere to some type of moral code prior to getting married, or prior to adopting?

No. In other words, it’s clear that I was completely unwilling to take any substantial legal steps to be consistent with the idea of creating the kind of marriage environment that I think is ideal for kids.

Therefore, if I’m not willing to take those steps, then it seems to me that my justification for any particular marriage laws has to rely on something entirely different.
The alternative I have now arrived at is one that, in all reality, applies to gay marriages as much as it does to traditional marriages.

In short, we as a society need to encourage committed, permanent relationships — i.e., marriage — between people to shore us up in a world with persistent economic and social turbulence, instability and insecurity.

Although my underlying personal views are unchanged, the views of mine that are relevant– regarding which types of relationships society should officially recognize have.
Gay marriage is coming, and as a society we should do what we can to encourage more marital stability for all.

I should add that, should we legalize gay marriage, it is absolutely essential to preserve the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty.

Ultimately, doing so means having adequate protections for churches that do not want to administer such weddings, and for faith-based companies to operate in a way that is consistent with their religious beliefs.

Dr. Aaron Hedlund is an assistant professor in economics department of the Hankamer School of business. He is a guest writer for the Lariat.