Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Workable Compromise

In today's New York Times, David Blankenhorn and Jonathan Rauch -- two writers on opposite sides of the same-sex marriage debate -- have come to a compromise. Their suggestion: create federal civil unions that give equal federal level benefits (Social Security survivor benefits, tax-free inheritance, etc.), yet allow religious organizations to refuse to recognize these unions. I'm not sure I like the idea of legalized discrimination for organizations simply because they believe there is an invisible superbeing who supports their position, but I think the federal rights are so important we ought to claim them via whatever avenue provides them.

Money quote: "In all sharp moral disagreements, maximalism is the constant temptation. People dig in, positions harden and we tend to convince ourselves that our opponents are not only wrong-headed but also malicious and acting in bad faith. In such conflicts, it can seem not only difficult, but also wrong, to compromise on a core belief. But clinging to extremes can also be quite dangerous. In the case of gay marriage, a scorched-earth debate, pitting what some regard as nonnegotiable religious freedom against what others regard as a nonnegotiable human right, would do great harm to our civil society."

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