By the Herald editorial staff
As far as we can remember, the Herald editorial board has never ducked a tough election issue.
Our position is that voters don't get to take a pass on difficult decisions, so neither should we.
But we're deviating from that long-held policy this year by declining to make a recommendation to voters on Referendum 71, the domestic partnership measure on the statewide ballot.
The fact that we're deeply divided over the issue of gay rights isn't the reason we're abandoning tradition. We are split, but it's not the reason.
We've been at odds over elections before, with editorial board members entrenched on opposing sides, and still managed to make our recommendation.
It's not even unusual.
Normally, we acknowledge the division, give a respectful explanation of the dissenting view, then make the case for the majority opinion as best we can.
An aversion to controversy isn't the reason for leaving R-71 off our list of recommendations either.
A newspaper's opinion page that fails to encourage an open debate on controversial topics of public interest isn't doing its job.
One of the best ways to spark a conversation is to take a position and defend it, then let detractors take their shots. We do it all the time.
But we won't be making a recommendation on this morally divisive and controversial measure. We don't think it can help.
The editorial board's debates on gay rights ultimately led to a stalemate.
We're cemented in positions that are based on conscience and moral grounding. Argument and logic -- the normal currency of our discussions -- can't stand up to the beliefs we each hold.
When we can't sway each other, why imagine we can convince anyone else?
You can't argue away a moral conviction with talking points and reasoning. We know, because we've tried.
For some on our board, the state's expansion of rights for domestic partners, if left unchecked, inevitably will lead to same-sex marriage. As a matter of religious faith and morality, that outcome is unacceptable to them.
They'll vote to reject R-71 and overturn the "everything but marriage" bill passed by the previous Legislature.
For others, it's just as wrong to deny equal rights based on an individual's sexual orientation.
They'll vote to approve R-71 and uphold the expansion of rights for domestic partners.
Either way, our moral compass guides us.
Our different views can't be reconciled. The best we can do is respect each other, acknowledge that we have a right to our beliefs and vote our conscience.
That's our best advice to readers too.