Saturday, December 06, 2008

all over but the constitutional amendments

Over half the states in the union (29) have articles in their state constitutions banning gay marriage, including, most recently, California. Arizona was the only state in which such an amendment actually failed any time it proposed, but then it passed this year. Only two states allow actual marriages (Connecticut and Massachusetts) and a handful more allow civil unions for same-sex couples. So why are gay rights advocates feeling positive? Time, in short, is on their side.
The GLAAD poll -- conducted the week after voters outlawed gay marriage in California, Arizona and Florida -- shows that majorities of U.S. adults support expanding hate-crime laws to include gay people (63 percent), offering some type of legal recognition to same-sex couples (75 percent) and extending rights to fair housing and employment to gay and transgender people (51 percent). Nearly 70 percent oppose laws -- Utah has one -- that prevent gay and lesbian couples from adopting children.
GLAAD's [poll also found] that 47 percent of U.S. adults back gay marriage -- with 49 percent opposed (within the poll's 2 percent margin of error).
So that means that people alive today are becoming more and more tolerant of gay rights in general, but gay marriage itself is still off on the horizon.
Results, drawn from the Big Ten Battleground Poll, indicate that support for gay marriage will get a notable boost if the state's high court rules in favor of it. And, a majority of Iowa voters under age 30 are already in favor of gay marriage, suggesting that support for it could grow as time goes on.

Battleground polls were conducted Oct. 19-22[, 2008] in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota, home to the 11 universities in the Big Ten Conference. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percent.
I remember seeing similar polling in Massachusetts in 2003 after Goodridge came down. The majority of younger voters supported gay marriage, their parents' generation was split, and their grandparents' generation was overwhelmingly opposed.

In sum, the culture wars are for all practical purposes over and those dirty hippies have won. While supporters of the mythical 1950s style Ozzie and Harriet family values might score victories now, their supporters are shrinking--both the number of evangelicals are shrinking as well as those left of the Greatest Generation. This is why supporters of such bans seek constitutional amendments and not legislation, not because they fear the courts (which they could pack via political victories in legislative and gubernatorial races), but because constitutional amendments are, in theory, more permanent and more difficult to undo.

But I fully expect that in coming years all this will rapidly change in favor of gay rights, including the right to marry. When this tipping point will occur, I cannot say, but anywhere from 5-20 years from now, I predict that gay people will be marrying everywhere...yes, even in Utah.

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