03/11/2009 03:39 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

If Religious Conservatives Back Gay Marriage, Would Gays Back Covenant Marriage?

Here's a modest proposal to get the gay marriage debate unstuck: religious conservatives back gay marriage while gay marriage advocates push efforts to reduce the divorce rate.

Some opponents of same sex marriage say their big fear is the slippery slope toward a weakening of the institution of marriage. Gay marriage would lead to polygamy etc. Gays have correctly pointed out that many other factors are far more likely to hurt marriage than same sex unions. Indeed, writers like Andrew Sullivan have persuasively argued that this drive for same sex marriage really assumes a reverence for the institution of marriage, something that ought to be encouraged, not discouraged.

So, my idea challenges gay activists: if it's true that you revere the institution of marriage, put your energy and clout toward helping to strengthen it in a variety of ways (more on the particulars below).

Then, it challenges anti-gay marriage forces: if you are truly concerned mostly about the future of marriage, here's a way you can insure that gay marriage will actually strengthen not harm that institution.

Of course what this potential offer would also do is smoke out those gay marriage opponents who have used the sanctity of marriage argument as an excuse for their real motivation, which is to deny gays equal status.

What could actually strengthen the institution of marriage? Below the fold I list several policy ideas but symbolically the most dramatic step would be for gay marriage activist to endorse the concept of Covenant Marriage. This is an idea promoted by religious conservatives and usually mocked by folks on the left. The idea was to give couples a choice between two types of marriage licenses, regular and a "Covenant Marriage." Those who chose the latter would commit to premarital counseling, emphasizing the seriousness of the institution and agreeing to get marital counseling when troubles arise." Can you imagine if there was a voluntary movement of gays to encourage the idea and indeed for some of them to choose Covenant Marriage for themselves?

Here are some other ideas to preserve marriage included in a book by religious conservatives Tony Perkins and Harry Jackson. Yes, that's the same Tony Perkins who runs the Family Research Council and opposes gay marriage -- but before gay activists reject anything out of his mouth on those grounds consider some of these ideas with open mind. If you didn't know who was proposing them, wouldn't you support these ideas?: