Civil Unions: Conclusion And Compromise


Civil unions exclusively between unrelated same-sex couples (which are practically identical to marriage) weaken the social institution of marriage and weaken our solution to the social problem that every society must solve. The conservative conclusion is that civil unions exclusively between unrelated same-sex couples, or between opposite-sex couples, are not desirable.


A compromise for public policy is to offer civil unions for same-sex couples and any other couples ineligible to marry, without any requirement for the couple to be unrelated.

…Princeton’s Robert P. George once proposed for New Jersey civil unions, unions recognized by the federal government would be available to any two adults who commit to sharing domestic responsibilities, whether or not their relationship is sexual. Available only to people otherwise ineligible to marry each other (say, because of consanguinity), these unions would neither introduce a rival “marriage-lite” option nor treat same-sex unions as marriages. Their purpose would be to protect adult domestic partners who have pledged themselves to a mutually binding relationship of care. What (if anything) goes on in the bedroom would have nothing to do with these unions’ goals or, thus, eligibility requirements.

…Our proposal would still meet the needs of same-sex partners—based not on sex (which is irrelevant to their relationship’s social value), but on shared domestic responsibilities, which really can ground mutual obligations. It would provide a practical compromise that need not offend either side’s nonnegotiable principles. And it would lower the emotional temperature without chilling debate, which would continue at the state level, perhaps now more fruitfully.