Thursday, March 04, 2004

Better late than wrong

When I lived in Dallas, I could rarely bring myself to open up the editorial page of the Dallas Morning News. While it reflected fairly accurately the political sentiments of the area, the political sentiments of the area made we want to yak from the dawn of my political awareness through highschool graduation when I escaped to the liberal oasis of Austin.

Nowadays, however, I keep my eye on their editorial page from time to time as a political barometer of conservative America (specifically, moderate conservative. Non-ideologue conservative). When Bush announced his support for the gay marriage amendment, the New York Times and the Washington Post registered their opposition in editorials the very next day. The Dallas Morning News? Not a word. Checking back periodically, I searched in vain for an opinion. On Tuesday, the editorial board finally settled the wrestling match with its soul and reached a conclusion: Gay Marriage: Tough call, but amendment not necessary.

While I was pleased to see this headline in Dallas' newspaper, and while I know it will be accompanied by irate letters to the editor, I was even more astonished to see their rationale. It's easy enough and, I think, even sufficient to say that their opposition to gay marriage is not stronger than their opposition to amending the constitution frivolously. The board could have simply made this a constitution issue and not a gay issue. But here's what they said:
We view the term "marriage" as inherently religious, and we recognize that the prospect of government-sanctioned gay marriage feels intrusive to many Americans. Despite our reticence about the term, however, we don't believe that gay marriage threatens the core of our culture or our system of government. As we've explained in our previous support for civil unions, we don't believe the uniting of two people of the same gender will destroy our country or undermine what makes it great. So in the final analysis, we don't believe that gay marriage is something the government must stop at all costs.

It is this sensibility that leads us to oppose a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. We don't come to this conclusion easily. We are indeed empathetic with those who feel violated by judicial heavy-handedness and seek a greater electoral role in the controversy.
When you strip away all the what-if and how-to technicalities, this controversy centers on whether one believes that the prospect of two people of the same gender entering into marriage as personally discomforting as many Americans view it to be threatens the soul of our culture or the governing system of our country. Our collective sense is that it does not, and therefore, with respect to those who disagree, we recommend against pursuit of a federal marriage amendment.

I hope I'm not reading too much into this when I hope that this accurately represents the sentiments of your average, reasonable American. It seems to be the feeling I get from non-frothing-liberal acquaintances. "Eh, we're sort of uncomfortable with gay people, but let's not go overboard, here..." Not a ringing endorsement of equality and acceptance, but tolerance is a great starting place and it allows for communities to work together. So far, Bush's culture war has made me prouder of America than otherwise.


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