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During the debates over gay marriage with California's Proposition 8 and now with New York allowing same-sex couples to wed starting on July 24, I've often heard people on the con side assert that since the ideal situation for child-rearing is a stable family with a mother and father, gay marriage should be banned.

I don't know if that's true, but suppose it is. That ideal is rare; even in many two-parent families there is often severe dysfunction, and "stable" is not an accurate descriptor. As a Mormon bishop, my father would sigh and say, without sharing specifics, that I'd be surprised how few marriages were happy in our upper-middle-class California ward.

And what about all the children who have no parent? Wouldn't one loving parent, gay or straight, be better than none? Or a stable couple, both of the same gender? In the world we must deal with people and solutions that fall short of the ideal, but with gay marriage, opponents argue the opposite.

Voltaire famously lamented that "the perfect is the enemy of the good." That's an accurate critique of this argument against gay marriage: In the name of perfection, people are rejecting goodness.

Charles C. Peyton

Salt Lake City