A NEW ‘MIDDLE GROUND’ ON GAY RIGHTS?…. Michael Medved, a very conservative voice, believes Elton John has “solved” the gay marriage controversy by endorsing civil unions. (via Sullivan)

One of the world’s most prominent gay entertainers offered some rare common sense on the explosive issue of same sex marriage. In New York City for a gala AIDS benefit, rock legend Sir Elton John appeared with his long-time partner, David Furnish. “We’re not married,” he told the press, “Let’s get that straight. We have a civil partnership…I don’t want to be married! I’m very happy with a civil partnership. The word ‘marriage,’ I think, puts a lot of people off. You get the same equal rights that we do when we have a civil partnership. Heterosexual people get married. We can have civil partnerships”.

If more people on all sides of this issue embraced the simple, irrefutable logic of this clear-thinking superstar, a vastly divisive, unnecessary controversy could reach a successful and amicable solution.

Now, I happen to think both John and Medved are mistaken, and that there’s no reason to deny gay couples the right to get married. In fact, I haven’t the foggiest idea what John is talking about.

But it’s probably worth noting that, at some point over the last couple of years, civil unions for gay couples stopped being controversial. It’s a welcome development. As recently as, say, 2002, the notion that the left and right could agree to support legally-recognized gay partnerships, with all of the rights therein, seemed pretty far-fetched, if not ridiculous.

And yet, here we are. Medved, who probably considered legally-recognized gay unions outrageous a few years ago, now treats the notion of civil partnerships as something of a no-brainer. With nary a complaint, the nation seems to have embraced civil unions as a consensus “middle ground” that even far-right media personalities can endorse.

It doesn’t excuse inexplicable setbacks like the vote on California’s Prop. 8, but I suppose it’s progress.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.