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Gay Marriage: Not Such a Big Deal After All?

Gay marriage was big news today with front-page stories, accompanied by photos, of gays marrying in Massachusetts. It didn’t look particularly frightening; quite the contrary, the people involved looked nice and rather ordinary, not threatening. As E.J. Graff pointed out on The New Republic website, that helps explain why, so far, the expected backlash against gay marriage has failed to gain momentum: once you see the actual people involved, it’s harder to get bent out of shape about it.
Recent public opinion data support the idea that publicity around gay marriage is not provoking a firestorm of opposition, but rather a halting movement toward acceptance. For example, in a May 2-4 Gallup poll, support for recognizing gay marriages is actually higher than it’s ever been measured before (42 percent against 55 percent opposition). The new Newsweek poll also finds, for the first time, a majority (51 percent) of the public saying they support some kind of legal recognition of gay or lesbian couples (either full marriage rights or civil unions), as against 43 percent who oppose such recognition. And among 18-29 year olds, support for legal recognition is overwhelming (64-34).
Now, none of this is to say that we don’t have a long way to go before this issue is completely resolved. And we will see public opinion move back and forth in reaction to particular events. But the net result of that ebb and flow will continue to be toward acceptance and tolerance, as the harmless reality of married gays and gays in civil unions quietly keeps on doing its good work. And, in the end, the iron fist of demographic change (see 18-29 year old data above) will finish the job.

15 comments on “Gay Marriage: Not Such a Big Deal After All?

  1. brittany on

    I think that people should be more open minded. Yes, I know that it is against the Bible and everything, but if they are going to be together anyways then why can they not get married? I, myself, am straight but have many gay friends. I don’t think that it is fair for people to judge gay people based on their sexuality. In Arkansas it is legal for you to marry your 2nd cousin. Now if that is not messed up I don’t know what is. Everyone wants to be with who makes them happy, I think gay marriage should be legalized.

  2. BKW on

    For a one-sentence answer (what James is suggesting above), how about something along the lines of, “As long as gays and lesbians are good citizens and pay their taxes like everyone else, shouldn’t they enjoy the same civil protections like everyone else?” It’s essentially a ‘conservative’ argument, emphasizing the libertarian attitude of keeping government interference in personal life at a minimum. Yet also alludes to the civil rights campaign. I personally think there are stronger moral arguments to be made, but this seems like a strong political argument.

  3. dean on

    Checked with the wife, now that the dust has settled. Still happy with the marriage. Guess gay marriage isn’t really that big a threat.
    I was worried.

  4. Jeff on

    I think its very simple, the reason why this issue hasn’t resonated with the public. Because what the Rethugs are doing is recreating the dynamics that existed during Impeachment, which most agree hurt them more than the democrats politically.
    What I mean by this is during the Impeachment of Bill Clinton, most Americans disapproved of his actions. However, they saw the Republican response as too extreme. Censure Clinton, reprimand him. BUT, do not impeach him. However, the Republicans DID impeach him. Why?
    Because two-thirds of their base strongly supported the impeachment, whereas two-thirds of the public-at-large did not. So the GOP were caught between a rock and hard place. If they didn’t impeach Clinton, they would alienate their base. If they did, they’d alienate everyone else.
    The gay marriage issue works much the same way. Most people oppose the idea of gay marriage, but they think the Republican response – of a constitutional ammendment banning it – as too extreme. The constitution is there to provide protection for citizens, not banning them from doing things. But the issue, once again, puts the GOP in a catch-22. Their base of ideologues and dittoheads want the ban. The larger population doesn’t. Therefore, we’re right back where we started with impeachment.
    I agree. This issue is wrought with danger for the republicans, not democrats. Bush can come out and say “he supports a constitutional ammendment” and leave it at that. A rhetorical commitment. But if the issue blows up, then his base will make him do more. If he does more, he’ll alienate middle-class and swing voters. If he doesn’t then he’ll alienate his base.
    As for Democrats, all we have to do is:
    a) say that we don’t support gay marriage.
    b) say that we don’t support the constitutional ammendment.
    Easy peasy.

  5. dean on

    Sorry. My happiness was premature. How certain is it that the Mass House will not repeal? I do not live in Mass, but I would love to do something to help convince them to repeal that law and any others that are discriminatory. Are there any states whose laws still ban inter-racial marriage? If so, that fact could be used to show the discriminatory nature of the Mass law and how it had wider effects than just prohibiting gay marriage.

  6. James on

    You’re right, Matt. If anything the intraparty fighting over the law that is bound to happen in the House may only strengthen Mitt’s position and help Republicans in the fall. If people think that gays are only getting married because they want to throw out the laws in their own state then there may be a backlash.
    I did want to mention that any of you who live in places like Wisconsin or Michigan or Ohio, to please research these amendments and tell as many people as you can about the true ramifications of them if they are passed. So many polls have people approving, say, the Wisconsin amendment and yet favoring civil unions. Too bad the Wisconsin amendment bans everything for gay couples, even far less than civil unions. Voters who are not totally anti-gay should know that they are supporting hateful legislation. Many just hear “marriage ban” and that’s all they see.
    BTW, Arkansas anti-gay activists are now trying to get enough signatures on the ballot for an amendment, so beware of that.

  7. Matt McIrvin on

    The Massachusetts legislature did not repeal the law. That was the vote in the Senate; the House will probably not support the repeal, certainly not sufficiently to overcome Romney’s veto.

  8. dean on

    And this just in. Mass. legislature repeals the 1913 law by a vote of 28-3. Got that from another blog. So, IN YOUR FACE MITT ROMNEY! Woo-hoo! If that isn’t a shot across the bow I don’t know what is. Swift and efficient. I’m liking it. Of course, he could argue in court that marriages that took place before the repeal are still null, but the courts could easily tell him the issue is moot if he tries to prosecute any of them or have them so declared. Or the legislature could grandfather those marriages in with new legislation. I wonder if he would risk another such obvious kick in the pants. That sort of thing doesn’t make one look good.

  9. James on

    I can’t help wondering how the black pastors who are so opposed to any homosexuality at all feel about these laws being enforced. The legislature is fighting over whether to repeal the law, I hope that doesn’t hurt Democrats or same-sex marriage too much in that state.
    As for Kerry’s position, he needs to come up with a short, concise answer. He has struggled with this (to put it mildly) and that will haunt him in debates. All you have to say is, “I think the states should decide the issue.” Not, “I think we are all human beings and I approve of marriage between a man and a woman but have attended non-legal ceremonies for homosexual couples.”

  10. Ron Thompson on

    The 1913 law was a Jim Crow law, of course. It says that no marriage is valid in Massachusetts if contracted between citizens of another state who couldn’t marry legally in their home state. It was aimed at inter-racial couples who couldn’t marry in the South due to anti-miscegenation laws. It’s just a quirk that it was never declared unconstitutional.

  11. dean on

    Maybe they’re afraid that gay marriage will destroy marriages because their wives will divorce them and marry other women?
    My wife says our marriage is doing just fine. I made a point of asking.
    Oh, and I’m 46, darling. Give credit to us older fellers too.
    The pictures remind one of Will and Grace. Queer Eye is wildly popular. Trust me folks, the more hysterical the right becomes, the more they will alienate the moderate Republicans. Mit Romney is fighting a rearguard action in Mass, saying he’ll examine all licenses to make sure that only Mass gays were married, in accordance with a 1913 law. He’d better be careful before he finds his retro thinking comes back to bite him in his Mass.

  12. frankly0 on

    I do think that the pictures of the gay couples getting married has done a good job in making gay marriage seem innocuous to most Americans.
    The pictures bring to mind Will and Grace rather than Sodom and Gommorrah.

  13. Regime Change USA - Anti-Bush t-shirts and more on

    I think gay marriage will become less taboo as a) it starts happening and people realize that their own marriages are not breaking up as a result (in Vermont, there was an uproar when the civil unions bill was first passed, but by now most people have accepted it and moved on), and b) my generation gets older and becomes more influential. Even some of the radical right Republicans on my campus think the Republican Party goes too far with its anti-gay platform, and polls have shown that people under 30 are far more likely to support gay marriage than other age groups.

  14. Marcus Lindroos on

    If this issue pops up during the presidential TV debates, I hope Kerry defends his position using essentially conservative/libertarian arguments. There is no need to have the federal government force the Christian Right’s definition of marriage upon every state from Utah to Vermont. He could also question the wisdom of amending the Constitution for a comparatively trivial purpose such as this.
    More than anything, he should stress the importance of TOLERANCE. He could say he personally regards marriage as a heterosexual union, but that he is willing to let each state define marriage as it wants.
    If “Shrub” tries to pander to his Christian base by preaching thinly veiled homophobia, I think even more moderates/independents will abandon him.

  15. James on

    Somewhat concerning is that the support for the FMA (Hate Amendment) is the same as it was several months ago. This was in early May. After Abu Ghraib (which some in the media seemed obsessed with blaming on gays), and the media circus in Massachusetts, the FMA should increase in popularity, at least for a while.
    The problem for fundies is that they have yet to be able to give any example of exactly how same-sex marriage will seriously ruin anyone’s life. Instead they talk about 5,000 years of history, “marriage certificates are now death certificates!”, “I have been married for 48 years but now that relationship is shaky and damaged because it is just a piece of paper!!” and other foolishness. Many oppose same-sex marriage, particularly if they are highly religious and pro-life, but they are not motivated to make serious noise about this. That may change of course, particularly as election day nears. The general support and the independent support for the amendment concerns me. So does the likelihood of a vote this summer or in September. I do wonder what the overall public response to what’s happening in Massachusetts will be. So far, the chaos in Iraq has drowned much of that out. Indeed, if I could ever be “grateful” to our horrific blunders in Iraq, it would be that they have, for now at least, overshadowed what was supposed to be such a huge issue for the GOP.
    I’m happy that the Lawrence vs. Texas backlash is dying down, but the state constitutional amendments are the serious concern. They have passed in Louisiana, Missouri (for non-swing states – Utah, Mississippi, Kentucky, Georgia), and may be on the ballot in North Carolina, Michigan, Oregon, Ohio. All swing states or possible swing states and all designed to turn out every lunatic voter who might otherwise stay home. This was the real purpose of the FMA (that and to help get Republicans more power in Massachusetts, which could still very well happen). To help individual turnout in each major state at a time when Bush will need every single vote he can get.
    The bottom line for me is public opinion on the amendment is still being formed and can be easily manipulated one way or the other. I’m really terrified about what they will do over the next few months to try to get this passed or to try to get more people to vocally support it. And the state constitutional amendments are a serious problem. They could tip this November in the GOP’s hands.
    If you want to help fight this evil scheme, these groups and sites will help. PLEASE visit them.


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