Personally, I think that the best response to 9-11 is to say that the less influence religion has on law, education or politicians, the better. Bin Ladin, Hitler and Ashcroft have virtually nothing in common, but each has demonstrated a devotion to absolutist principles frequently clothed in language of religion. Without a commitment to devout secularism, I think the pendulum swing too often pushes government toward authoritarian or intolerant tendencies. I think the world has reached a point where the long-term prognosis for religion is that it is never likely to do more good than harm. Without religious underpinnings, most arguments favoring special privileges for mixed-sex couples fall apart. (Frankly, I think that weddings and funerals are the only times many people turn to clergy at all, and people advocating religion are afraid of losing their last shreds of importance or legitimacy.)
The trouble is that my opinion is the minority opinion. San Francisco, Boston, New York and a few other places are blessed with sizable, visible communities of people deviating from the straight-and-narrow tradition. Many smaller cities and rural areas live in a much more conventional world. A sizeable chunk of U.S. voters still live outside the big cities. Many big-city dwellers came from smaller cities or rural areas and they often carry the older value system. Even people who were born and raised in the cities sometimes subscribe to anachronistic views on same-sex relationships. Even our judicial system puts heavy emphasis on consistency with the past. As adamantly as I disagree with the establishmentÃƒÂ¢Ã¢?Â¬Ã¢?Â¢s party line, I have to concede its entrenched momentum in our democratic system.
I want to ask two questions in this thread: How do we convince the hoards of traditionalists that this radical change is important enough that we have to overturn centuries of precedent while simultaneously convincing them that the change is not so big as to undermine the precious establishment? Which would be better: five to ten more years with no legal recognition whatsoever for same-sex couples followed by full marriage rights or several decades of chipping away at the barriers between marriage and second class civil unions?