There has a been a rapid public diversification of conservative views on gay marriage.

Religious Right Rethinks Strategy as Agenda Stalls
By Mark O’Keefe
Religion News Service

…A growing sense of frustration is enveloping the leadership of the
political movement that began nearly 25 years ago when the Rev. Jerry
Falwell’s Moral Majority burst onto the national scene. A generation
later, most Americans don’t stand with the Christian Right. Its big agenda
items have fizzled.

Frist backpedals on support for amendment to ban gay marriage
Associated Press

Jonah Goldberg’s reverse slippery slope:

I think opponents of gay marriage sometimes misunderstand that occasionally giving in a little prevents giving in a lot. Consider feminists today. There
was a time when their arguments galvanized millions of ordinary Americans.
Today, feminism is something of a joke – at least when it’s identified as
feminism – because the issues groups like NOW yap about are so distant from
the lives and desires of ordinary women. The Equal Rights Amendment failed
precisely because most women felt they’d won what they needed to win – the
vote, anti-discrimination laws etc. The same, to some extent, holds true for
blacks. Black activists today whine about reparations and state flags
because the major legal and political victories have been won already.

Judging from many of the gays I’ve talked to or heard from, the demand for
marriage is less strong than the demand for the tangible things they want:
social security benefits, hospital visitation, health insurance, etc. etc. I
understand the argument that conceding these items would be giving gays an
inch when they’re hell-bent on taking a mile. But I’m not at all sure it’s
true that all that many of them want the mile. As we’ve learned from the
presidencies of both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, co-opting some of the
agenda of the opposition more often takes the wind out of the sails of the
opposition. Opponents of gay marriage want to concede nothing. I think that’s misguided on public policy grounds…. And, in political terms it
keeps the pro-gay marriage coalition unified. Just something to think about.

Tom Sylvester,, responds to Goldberg:

I don’t like to think about this issue in terms of political expediency. But committed gay and lesbian couples ought to have those legal protections and
benefits as a simple matter of fairness. If it’s true that there isn’t
actually a strong constituency for “marriage per se” in the gay community,
but just for the legal goodies that go with it, then perhaps some sort of
civil union arrangement is the way to go. As for Professor Clark’s point
about Americans being a “fair and sympathetic people,” I agree, and that’s
why I wish this issue would be settled through democratic means in the
legislatures, not by the courts.

Meanwhile, others conservatives ponder widening the scope and flavors of marital and household contracts.

John O’Sullivan, National Review:

And there would be an unlooked-for benefit. People thinking of living
together would then have three choices: civil marriage, religious marriage,
and household partnerships. In effect there would be a competition between
these three institutions for their custom. Which would be likely to prove
most popular and durable? One can only guess at the result of such choices.
Here’s my guess.

Household partnerships would probably thrive for the eminently practical
reason that they would provide a wide range of people with a good financial
basis for non-sexual companionship and mutual help. Also, young men nervous
of commitment (both gay and straight) would sometimes be able to persuade
their partners to stick with this half-way house.

–Compiled by Steve B.

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