If I Were Rudy Giuliani: On Marriage
To add a second installment to the new series started by RudyBlogger, I would like to offer an analysis on how candidate Rudy should address the issue of marriage. Anti-Rudy-ites have long insisted that the Mayor's position on "gay marriage," or sometimes the more ambiguous, "gay rights," will doom his chances of obtaining the Republican nomination. I disagree; in fact, I think this issue will be one of the easier of the cultural ones for Rudy to get around. As such, following is the framework on the issue of marriage that I would embrace if I were Rudy Giuliani...
Marriage is important
The first thing Rudy has to do in order to prevent any policy on marriage from being turned into a wedge issue between secular and religious voters is to explain to the electorate why he, as a candidate to lead the executive branch of the federal government, is even articulating a policy on what has long been an issue confined to individuals, religious institutions, and state law. I think one of the biggest mistakes the president has made on this issue has been his failure to lay out a case for a national marriage policy that is distinctly secular in nature. The result has been a largely sectarian debate pitting evangelicals against mainline Protestants, orthodox Catholics against secular Catholics, and social conservatives against libertarians and federalists. This was a strategic error on the president's part and should be avoided by Rudy.
So how does Rudy address "marriage" without throwing down the gauntlet neatly on the red/blue divide? Well, one way would be to follow the advice of one of Rudy's once-and-future-allies, Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute. MacDonald recently penned an entirely secular argument for a state interest in marriage, which can be found here. MacDonald's point is that there is a strong correlation between social ills and broken homes, and that societies in which poverty and crime run rampant are also those in which fathers don't stick around for the long haul. As mayor of New York, Rudy has observed this dynamic first-hand and is very well positioned to argue that marriage is indeed important enough for a societal conversation whether or not one believes any sort of deity had anything at all to say about the subject.
Marriage should be limited to couples consisting of one man and one woman
There's a reason the world has pretty much universally come to this conclusion over the millennia, and while the national and international conversation on the subject may yield a completely different conclusion in the generations ahead, it is clear that in the America of 2006, the vast majority of citizens favor marriage to remain within its traditional parameters. Rudy, then, should continue to do what he's been doing: proclaim the traditional definition of marriage inviolate and oppose any attempts to alter that definition.
Let the states decide
After explaining to Americans why the state has an interest in marriage policy and assuring voters that he does indeed support maintaining the traditional definition of marriage, Rudy should return to that age-old, often forgotten element of conservatism --- a respect for federalism --- and advocate an approach to the marriage issue that allows the voters of each state to select their own marriage policies. This would accomplish two objectives. First, it would reassure social conservatives that Rudy's personal support for civil unions would not have any impact on federal law, with each state free to decide between traditional marriage only, full-fledged same-sex marriage, or something in between. Secondly, it would allow Rudy to maintain his stance in opposition to amending the Constitution to ban gay marriage. And that brings me to my final point...
Judges, not amendments
Many conservatives argue that support for a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage is a new litmus test for GOP candidates, and that no candidate will attain the presidential nomination without endorsing it. I would argue that what is actually required is nominal support for traditional marriage combined with a dedication to ensuring that the people, not the courts, get to decide marriage policy for their community. While a constitutional amendment was the president's preferred strategy to achieve this end, it has yet to garner majority support in a single poll, while maintaining traditional marriage achieves a majority in every poll. Instead of dividing the national center-right majority opposed to same-sex marriage by proposing a strategy that a significant number of them cannot get behind, Rudy should instead promise to appoint conservative judges who will respect the Constitution and who will leave decisions on marriage policy where they belong: with the people and their elected representatives.