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Civil debate sadly lacking in battle for same-sex marriage

One of the perils of contemporary democracies is how members of the public from the same nations regard a debate as a “war of words.” Instead, in the sense of the word as a regulated discussion of a chosen topic between two matched sides, debate should be valued first and foremost as an endeavor to communicate, not merely as a means to defeat people who happen to not to agree on an issue.

For when debates are seen as wars, debaters are predisposed to view the others “side” as the enemy, while the fact is as compatriots they are actually on the same team. Without true communication, victory in a debate is bitter and fleeting, as the winner and loser will come back from the engagement — one feeling validated and the other unable to accept defeat — and find themselves facing each other again at home.

The sad truth is, however, that in today's bigoted media and political climate, people are often encouraged to go to extremes while moderate voices are drowned out by sound and fury.

The recent debate over the legalization of same-sex marriage, for example, is seen mostly as a zero-sum game between supporters and opponents. In these circumstances, it is easy to dismiss people who support homosexuality but oppose same-sex marriage as hypocrites. It is equally easy to criticize recent harassment against opponents of same-sex marriage as hate language not unlike those suffered by gay and lesbian persons.

When people are trying to communicate with each other, they might understand that these seemingly unequivocally negative examples could originate not from bile but from genuine concern.

While no doubt there will be people who are professing support of freedom only in words, it is imaginable that there are some who genuinely believe in freedom and fairness to people of all sexual orientations but have a problem accepting same-sex marriage. It is not necessarily prejudice against homosexuality that leads them to opposition, but their sense of the tremendous change that will be brought about by legalization of same-sex marriage.

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