Green Room

Douglas Kmiec’s “very bad idea”: ditch civil marriage altogether

posted at 8:38 am on May 28, 2009 by

He turned himself into a pretzel trying to justify a Catholic vote for the abortion candidate, now abortion president, Barack Obama. Latest great Kmiec idea: he thinks we ought to ditch marriage as a legal institution.

From the Catholic News Service:

Doug Kmiec, a prominent Catholic who backed Barack Obama’s presidential bid, has endorsed replacing marriage with a neutral “civil license,” a proposal law professor Robert P. George called a “terrible idea” that would make the government neglect a vital social institution.

Speaking to CNSNews.com, Pepperdine University law professor Doug Kmiec said that although his solution to disputes over the definition of marriage might be “awkward,” it would “untie the state from this problem” by creating a new terminology that would apply to everyone, homosexual or not. “Call it a ‘civil license’,” he said.

“The net effect of that, would be to turn over–quite appropriately, it seems to me, the concept of marriage to churches and a church understanding,” he said.

“Awkward”? What’s awkward is Kmiec’s employment at a reputedly Catholic institution. One has to seriously question his Catholic identity and beliefs. Or his sanity.

Read the rest for his reasoning. More Kmiec-ish ideas: let’s pave over our lawns so we won’t have to cut the grass, and call everyone Bruce to avoid confusion.

Robert George, noted defender of the unborn, says this:

George told CNSNews.com that marriage is not like baptisms and bar mitzvahs but has “profound” social and public significance.

“It’s a pre-political institution,” he said. “It exists even apart from religion, even apart from polities. It’s the coming together of a husband and wife, creating the institution of family in which children are nurtured.”

“The family is the original and best Department of Health, Education and Welfare,” he continued, saying that governments, economies and legal systems all rely on the family to produce “basically honest, decent law abiding people of goodwill – citizens – who can take their rightful place in society.”

“Family is built on marriage, and government–the state–has a profound interest in the integrity and well-being of marriage, and to write it off as if it were a purely a religiously significant action and not an institution and action that has a profound public significance, would be a terrible mistake,” George told CNSNews.com.

“I don’t know where Professor Kmiec is getting his idea, but it’s a very, very bad one.”

Update: Ed Morrissey agrees with Kmiec, RS McCain agrees with Robert George, and me. I won’t be around today to follow the argument.

h/t: K-Lo

Cross-posted here.

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Comments

What’s wrong with the argument? It’s been covered before by Ed, and it frankly makes quite a bit of sense.

MadisonConservative on May 28, 2009 at 8:45 AM

Mr. George says it better than I can:“

Family is built on marriage, and government–the state–has a profound interest in the integrity and well-being of marriage, and to write it off as if it were a purely a religiously significant action and not an institution and action that has a profound public significance, would be a terrible mistake.”

Pundette on May 28, 2009 at 8:48 AM

Would it be better if the state were completely disentangled from marriage, and it was left to the churches or other groups to marry according to their practices? Sure.

It would also be better if cars would run on tapwater, if wars could be won with no loss of life, and if cancer could be cure by herbal remedies.

Meanwhile, in the real world, marriage between opposite genders has been a part of society longer than democracy, republics or any other form of government currently operating in any large country on the globe. Marriages have provided a foundation for the physical and emotional needs of the next generation for millenia. To charge in blindly ripping this central institution from our society would be as disruptive as removing half the foundation from your house in an attempt to repair the peeling paint on it.

cs89 on May 28, 2009 at 8:59 AM

Pundette on May 28, 2009 at 8:48 AM

That’s fine. No-fault divorce, allowed by the state, negates that entire idea. If family is built on marriage, and marriage can be dissolved at any moment, then family is a sham. As I don’t believe family is a sham, my conclusion is that family is no longer built on marriage.

MadisonConservative on May 28, 2009 at 9:01 AM

MadisonConservative on May 28, 2009 at 9:01 AM

Sadly, I have to agree with you and Ed on this one. Nevada and its no-fault divorce money grab in the 1930′s killed the institution of marriage dead, dead, dead.

Anyone who has been on the receiving end of a divorce petition knows the truth of it.

Rather than destroy the religious concept of marriage altogether by calling homosexual unions “marriage”, let the govt simply do partnership contracts and allow the churches to call it marriage. If the universalists want to call homosexual unions “marriages”, well, perhaps they use the word, but at least catholics and many protestant denominations will remain faithful to the religious connotation of the word.

Wanderlust on May 28, 2009 at 10:15 AM

Just one quick comment before I have to go, but it seems to me that doing away with the legal concept of marriage would constitute downgrading this important institution to accommodate those who want to morph it into something else.
As for no-fault divorce, doesn’t it undermine the family by undermining marriage?

Pundette on May 28, 2009 at 11:22 AM

Just one quick comment before I have to go, but it seems to me that doing away with the legal concept of marriage would constitute downgrading this important institution to accommodate those who want to morph it into something else.
As for no-fault divorce, doesn’t it undermine the family by undermining marriage?

Pundette on May 28, 2009 at 11:22 AM

Marriage wasn’t a legal concept for most of history. It was a spiritual concept. Doing away with the legal concept won’t have any effect on the commitments people make to each other under whatever spiritual paradigm they subscribe to. If you don’t belong to said faith, you have no grievance when they don’t bring you together in marriage, nor when they refuse to recognize your marriage. Faiths have the power to do that. Government does not.

MadisonConservative on May 28, 2009 at 11:46 AM

but it seems to me that doing away with the legal concept of marriage would constitute downgrading this important institution to accommodate those who want to morph it into something else.

Pundette on May 28, 2009 at 11:22 AM

By not recognizing a gay couple raising kids are you helping that family? If the household functions like a family it would seem reasonable to provide the couple running the home with the same legal protection as other parents. At least, to be family-friendly.

dedalus on May 28, 2009 at 11:50 AM

By not recognizing a gay couple raising kids are you helping that family? If the household functions like a family it would seem reasonable to provide the couple running the home with the same legal protection as other parents. At least, to be family-friendly.

dedalus on May 28, 2009 at 11:50 AM

I am not quite up to snuff on this issue but I believe that most conservatives support the idea of civil unions which would give same sex partners all of the protections of marriage but would not obligate churches to perform marriage ceremonies for same sex couples or to allowing same sex couples to adopt using church run adoption services.

Just one quick comment before I have to go, but it seems to me that doing away with the legal concept of marriage would constitute downgrading this important institution to accommodate those who want to morph it into something else.
As for no-fault divorce, doesn’t it undermine the family by undermining marriage?

Pundette on May 28, 2009 at 11:22 AM

No one is calling for ending the legal concept of marriage, just the one size fits all marriage contract currently offered by the state. Under Kmiec’s proposal people would be free to write their own marriage contract. Mine would say that in case of divorce with children both spouses share custody of the children 50/50 with no child support paid by either parent. And if one spouse cheated they would have to pay a substantial penalty and be water boarded and be forced to marry Lawrence O’Donnell.

Bill C on May 28, 2009 at 4:18 PM

I am not quite up to snuff on this issue but I believe that most conservatives support the idea of civil unions which would give same sex partners all of the protections of marriage but would not obligate churches to perform marriage ceremonies for same sex couples or to allowing same sex couples to adopt using church run adoption services.

Bill C on May 28, 2009 at 4:18 PM

Yeah, I wish everyone could settle on civil unions and move on.

Currently, a straight couple might have their marriage recognized by the state but have many churches refuse to marry them–simply because they don’t meet the higher requirements of the church. The churches have a first amendment right to define marriage consistent with their moral teaching.

dedalus on May 28, 2009 at 4:53 PM

it frankly makes quite a bit of sense.

MadisonConservative on May 28, 2009 at 8:45 AM

I’ve long thought it was the best solution for all of this, and with no fault divorces, it simply sounds reasonable.

By not recognizing a gay couple raising kids are you helping that family?

dedalus on May 28, 2009 at 11:50 AM

I fail to see how government recognition can either hurt or help a couple.

Esthier on May 28, 2009 at 11:41 PM

I fail to see how government recognition can either hurt or help a couple.

Esthier on May 28, 2009 at 11:41 PM

Quite a bit from a tax and benefit standpoint, especially if there is a death of the primary wage-earner.

Also, the point of the argument against gay marriage is that the government recognition is part of an institution with great value that needs to be protected.

I agree with having the gov less involved, but under current law marriage provides benefits to straight couples that gay couples can’t replicate on their own.

dedalus on May 29, 2009 at 11:27 AM

No, wait people, even though a lot of the politicians want to keep traditional marriage, doing so is becoming just too hard for them – so I guess we should relieve them of the hard job they signed up for and just get rid of marriage altogether.

Exactly – let’s pave our lawns so we won’t have to cut them. Let’s become isolationist so we don’t have to deal with people getting mad at us over free trade. Hey, why don’t we just kill ourselves so we don’t have to deal with the pressures of life?

The ridiculous argument that Ed Morrissey and this moron professor have made seems like the easy way now to some of us, but is in fact a very hard road that those of us who would enact it wouldn’t be around to walk. It’s a selfish, lazy way of thinking and acting and the adolescents who think this way need to grow up and act like adults w/ responsibilities.

thebadoutlaw on May 31, 2009 at 2:50 PM