Should straight couples who support same-sex marriage delay their own marriage to support same-sex couples who can't legally marry? During his appearance on The Daily Circuit Wednesday, original "Ethicist" for The New York Times Magazine Randy Cohen tackled the ethics behind the action.
If a heterosexual couple is refusing to legally marry as part of an organized protest in support of same-sex marriage, Cohen said it could be an effective message.
"In the absence of that, it seems a futile stance to take," he said. "No one will know you did it. There's no harm in you getting married, you don't make it less likely that your gay friends can get married. I would see it as an unimportant decision unless it exists within the structure of organized protest."
The question came from Sonny, a caller from St. Paul. He said he comes from a same-sex family and has gay friends, and feels it is wrong for him to get married when people he loves are unable to do the same.
Sonny said he and his girlfriend believe marriage is about expressing your commitment to another person in front of family and friends. They plan to do a ceremony, but not become legally married so they don't receive the added government benefits of marriage.
"I appreciate the moral seriousness of your position, but I hope it's accompanied by a great deal of letter writing," Cohen told Sonny. "Unless your public officials and your neighbors know you've taken this stand and why, it doesn't exist as a protest. It exists as an isolated way of living your life.
"If you're going to do this, write a letter to the editor of your paper, write to your local representatives and tell them why you feel you were morally compelled to take this step. Then it rises to the status of a political protest."
Cohen is out with a new book, "Be Good: How to Navigate the Ethics of Everything," where he collected his favorite questions and responses from his 12 years writing "The Ethicist." He reflects on the most recurring themes, his thought and research process in devising answers, and how the questions changed over the years, particularly post 9/11 and with the rise of social media.
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MPR News' Kryssy Pease contributed to this report.