Prop 8: Can people agree to disagree?

Covering Proposition 8 – the proposition hoping to place an amendment in California’s Constitution making marriage exclusively between a man and a woman – one thing is very clear: people are passionate about it.

Both sides have strong feelings of support for their cause, which leads to vigorous discussions and debate on the subject of gay marriage. The problem is, since it is such a contentious issue, some are wondering if it is truly possible to have open, progressive discussion concerning the subject.

From all of the people I talked to concerning Prop 8 for stories, while having extreme differences, seemed to agree on one thing. The proposition’s public debate hasn’t been a healthy one.

Take a look at the comments on the stories on the Tribune’s website. Each story on Prop 8 is met with hoards of comments that sling mud back and forth, often filled with personal attacks or ugly words.

“It is causing a major divide among the people of California and it is, unfortunately, doing that. It is going to cause more problems within the society,” said Shawn Tanuvasa, the director of the Institute of Religion for a local chapter of the Church of Later Day Saints. .

“I don’t think the campaign has been structured right. There is a lot of confusion around it,” said Julie Tinney, a recently married lesbian.

“I think it can be a polarizing issue and what I am hearing a lot in the last week or two is that just as people in the presidential campaign are fed up with the politics as usual, and they want to talk about the issues, I am hearing some of that talk around Prop 8,” said Rev. Susan Russell of All Saints Church in Pasadena.

It is easy to see why problems arise in the debate over the issue. One sees it as a matter of civil rights and basic freedom. The other, along very similar lines, sees it as a matter of faith and religious freedom. Either way, it is a fundamental difference in belief that is not easily swayed.

Most issues, journalists know all to well, are not black and white but carry with them varying degrees of positives and negatives. They are clouded by the nature of existence that doesn’t usually allow something good without some element of unease, that doesn’t create evil without some level of humanity.

And that is what seems to be missing, by all acounts, from the debate surrounding Prop 8 and gay marriage. Both sides seem to have left out the humanity. While advocating there own side, some have forgotten they are arguing against the beliefs and way of life as others. And to argue against that, often enough, is to argue against that person on a very personal level.

People carry their religion with them, as a well fastened part of their being. For some people, their worth and existence revolves around their faith in God and the Bible. Arguing against that religion, and often, trying to discredit that religion can be intensely hurtful.

On the other side, gay and lesbian individuals believe this is who they are and they have accepted and embraced that, whether or nor they chose it or not. To separate them from a portion of society because of that lifestyle can leave them feeling alone and rejected.

Either way, when this issue is decided Tuesday, someone will be left out in the cold. What the effects of that will be remains to be seen. What I do know is that whoever “wins” this battle may celebrate that victory on Wednesday, but we should all be a little sad because no matter what, that victory will come at a cost at our neighbors expense, by punishing them for who they are and what the believe. We will have taken something from them, pass or fail. And with that, we all may have lost a little bit of our humanity.

“I think there is a possibility to agree to disagree,” Tanuvasa said.

On the issue of Prop 8, I am not so sure.