So here's an op-ed in today's Pasadena Star-News offering a sort of "apartheid-esque" solution to the marriage equality issue here in California. It BEGS for Letters to the Editor pointing out [a] separate-but-equal never is -- [b] it starts from the false premise that marriage equality undermines "social order" and [c] that "meeting in the middle" leaves the people on the margins still marginalized (among others.) You can click here to write and send your letter.
Oh ... and for the record ... Tim Kelly, the op-ed writer ... was the Senior Warden of one of the trying-to-breakaway-from-the-Diocese-of-Los-Angeles-and-take-diocesan-property-with-them congregations: St. Luke's, La Crescenta when the break-away was initiated in 2006.
Here's my question for Mr. Kelly: If his "principled centrism" had been operating in 1954 when the Brown v Board of Education decision caused "polarization" in the land, would he have proposed a blue ribbon panel to find a way to improve the standards of segregated schools to solve the "practical problems" of African-American students but keep them segregated to preserve "social order?"
Prop. 8 friends, foes should meet halfway
By Timothy A. Kelly -- 10/21/2008
As director of the DePree Public Policy Institute, I have been asked to weigh in on the matter of Proposition 8, which would amend the California Constitution to specify that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." I do so hesitantly, since this is a matter that evokes the strongest passions on both sides.
One side claims that the fight for same-sex marriage is analogous to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and it is clear as day to them that Proposition 8 is simply denial of equal rights.
The other side claims that there are theological, moral, or natural-law reasons to uphold the traditional definition of marriage, and fears that anything less will deny society's right to protect the social order by harming the institution of marriage. Not only so, but both sides are prone to pointing the finger at those who disagree and hurling insults that are neither helpful nor warranted (e.g., "homophobe," "sinner"). What to do?
I want to begin by pointing to the concept of "principled centrism" that has proven helpful in dealing with other hot-button issues. The basic idea is that the nation is too polarized, that both the far right and the far left are far wrong, and that there is a need to create a safe place in the center where civility and dialog can flourish. In order to do so, the underlying principles informing both sides must be identified, in the hopes of then finding some common ground.
Surprisingly, this is often doable!
So what are the underlying principles informing the debate over marriage?
On the one hand same-sex marriage proponents are asking for what they see as their basic equal rights. On the other hand, traditional-marriage proponents are asking for what they see as their right to protect the social order. Both sides have a point! And if there's any common ground, it may be that both sides are looking for a way to be able to live in peace and harmony. Both recognize that in the storm and stress of life it is fair to ask that the laws of the land do not harm law-abiding citizens.
This does not solve the problem, but starting at the level of underlying principles lessens the polarization and helps us see that there are no villains in this drama. It makes it a little easier to understand and respect each other. It makes it likelier that we can sit across the table from those with whom we disagree, and have a productive conversation.
What then? There must be a good faith effort to find a compromise solution that meets in the middle - that respects to the extent possible the principles of both equal rights and social order.
On the side of equal rights, same-sex couples point out that the current California domestic partnership laws ("domestic partners shall have the same rights, protections and benefits as married spouses") are not adequate. In emergency situations, for instance, same-sex partners are sometimes not allowed the access that would easily be granted to a spouse.
On the side of social order, many individuals and families feel that something precious is lost if the definition of marriage is changed to accommodate non-traditional couples. Some argue that children have a right to be raised by their biological mother and father if at all possible (notwithstanding obvious exceptions and the blessing of adoptions), and that traditional marriage inherently supports this right.
So where is the center? At the risk of sounding simplistic, I suggest that both sides would do well to give the other what is being asked for. This means holding onto the traditional definition of marriage, but taking seriously the problems that same-sex couples have under current domestic partnership laws.
As a voter, I wish there was a third option wherein I could vote for Proposition 8 but only with the caveat that a blue-ribbon task force would be created by the governor's office to solve the practical problems that same-sex couples report. I believe this would be doable.
Such a solution (Prop. 8 plus a blue-ribbon panel) fully satisfies neither side, but is an example of a "principled centrist" effort to find common ground and a way to move forward. It vilifies nobody, and respects the fact that both sides have understandable concerns based ultimately on their deeply held principles.
Timothy A. Kelly is director of the DePree Public Policy Institute and associate professor of psychology at Fuller Graduate School of Psychology in Pasadena.