Paul Greenberg

So there I was, reading a guest article in our newspaper here in Arkansas and nodding not just in agreement but admiration. And why not? For the guest writer was going right down the list of points I'd made over the years in favor of civil unions as an alternative to homosexual marriage.

Well put, I thought. Right on, amen, hallelujah and selah! Few things are as pleasing as seeing one's own opinions repeated by others; they seem even more convincing when their glory is reflected in another's words. Attaway, brother! Ye-e-es!

Such is human vanity, or at least that of newspaper columnists. And then, when everything was going so well, toward the end of this highly satisfying recap of my own positions, came the stunner:

The approach suggested by our newspaper would best be described as 'separate but equal.'

What?! I almost spilled my morning coffee. Separate But Equal? Not even back in the bad old days, when the Faubuses and Fulbrights were doing all their mischief here in Arkansas, whether calling out the National Guard to enforce law and disorder or issuing a Southern Manifesto to put a statesmanlike gloss on defiance of law, some of us would never have used the tainted phrase Separate But Equal in any way but ironically. As in, "Too many Southern school systems, whether black or white, are separate but equally inferior."

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True confession: Troubling as those times were, it was great fun pointing out the absurdities in the segs' case. Few things are so refreshing, and such good wholesome fun, as taking a lonely stand on a great issue, a stand you know is right, whatever derision and even threats it may invite.

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Now, more than half a century later, I now read a guest writer's description of the stand Arkansas' Newspaper has taken on this contentious issue, and I don't recognize it. Yes, we've supported the idea of civil unions for years, but we've also been careful never to describe it as the equal of marriage. Mainly because it isn't.

Yes, civil unions would give homosexual couples certain simple, decent assurances they've been denied entirely too long, like hospital visiting privileges and shared property and estates. But a civil union is most assuredly not the equal of marriage. Nor have we ever pretended otherwise, being careful to express reservations like "much the same" as marriage when advocating civil unions.

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Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.