I am reading a pretty good new book, What is Parenthood?, edited by Linda McClain and Daniel Cere. It consists of paired essays arguing what they call an "integrative" versus a "diversity" model of family life. The editors are law professors, so the central concern is with family law, but a broad range of disciplines are engaged.
This argument is a version of conservative vs. liberal, with some useful nuance in defining the terms. Indeed, while Cere is more conservative than McClain, both claim to be moderate versions in the diversity spectrum.
The core of the integrative model is that a married couple raising their own children is the best model of family life for society as a whole. The diversity model argues that other family arrangements can also be good for society. The debate over same-sex marriage is a central case in this debate, but not the only one.
In her introductory essay, McClain summarizes the result of a Pew survey on what most Americans feel about the current diversity of family forms. She says about a third oppose accepting all family forms, a third support accepting all family forms, and a third are tolerant but skeptical.
I am in that last group. I do think that a married couple raising their own children is the best model for society. But I also think that many children do not have that option, so in those cases the closest approximation we can manage is a good thing for society to accept and promote. Likewise, I think marriage is better for people who don't want to be alone - which is nearly everyone - so society does well to accept several kinds of marriage.
However, in the Gruntled Center Manifesto that sits on the upper left column of every post on this blog, I argue that a fundamental principle of centrism is the three-part distinction between the Good, the Bad, and the Tolerated. I think the Pew survey, noted above, show exactly the distinction I am talking about. Extremists try to force us to believe that there are only two choices - theirs, or their enemy's. But centrists see that most of life offers us some choices that are good, and a separate category of "good enough."
The hard part of maintaining a principled centrism is holding on to the difference between good and good enough, in the face of extremist pressures.