Gay-marriage advocates have been laying it on thick these last few days, building what appears to be an unstoppable momentum that will contribute to the inevitable: legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states.
It’s only unstoppable in their imagination, and if they don’t start taking a longer view of things, they are apt to be royally disappointed. Exactly five polls have come out in the last fortnight that show a majority support for gay marriage — today. Those polls also show a strong minority — more than 40% — still opposed. Such a rapid change in public opinion on an issue that has been controversial for 20 years should be suspect. Other factors could be in play that help explain the shift.
What will those numbers be six months from now? As we’ve seen with the abortion issue and other sensitive social issues, there appears to be a portion of the U.S. population that flits back and forth between the pro and anti positions, depending on which way the political wind is blowing.
One could even argue that the toxicity of the GOP and conservatism in general may be driving some of the increased support for gay marriage. Who wants to take a position on an issue associated with the party of old, bluenose fuddy-duddies?
The bottom line: Anti-gay marriage advocates aren’t giving up and aren’t going anywhere. Those who see opposition to gay marriage as a moral calling or as a cause to save “traditional marriage” may lose a round or two in the courts, but rest assured that they are girding their loins for battle in state legislatures across the country. There are still 41 states that have not approved same-sex marriage, and for the marriage-equality crowd, it’s still going to be a long, uphill climb to achieve their goal.
Jonathan Chait has designated himself obituary writer for the anti-gay marriage movement, claiming that Maggie Gallagher, a prominent figure in the movement, has all but given up:
Now the movement is in a state of total collapse, with every day seeming to bring new converts to the gay-marriage cause and the opposition losing all of its courage. There is no more telling sign of the opposition’s surrender than the public demoralization of Maggie Gallagher, the leading anti-gay-marriage activist and writer.
The unusual thing about the campaign to ban gay marriage is that it was dying from the moment it was born. Even at its peak, at the very outset, the portents of doom were visible on the horizon — polls showed that young voters strongly supported gay marriage. The best case for Gallagher and her allies appeared to be holding on for years, or even decades, but eventually gay-marriage opponents would age out of the electorate.
If Mr. Chait’s crystal ball is that good, he should change careers and become a stock touter. Attitudes of the young can change from generation to generation. For example, more women today are pro-life than were 10 years ago. It’s true that opposition to gay marriage is highest among older Americans. But Chait, who has been touting a similar end to the GOP because of changing demographics in America, should take a closer look at his pet numbers: 66% of black Protestants say that “same-sex marriage would violate their religious beliefs.” And 69% of Catholics — a large percentage being Hispanics — also believe gay marriage would violate their religious tenets. At least 58% of black voters backed Proposition 8 in California (exit polls showed 70% support).
In short, the reported demise of the anti-gay marriage movement has been greatly exaggerated and is based more on wishful thinking than cogent analysis.
Just because a few politicians have recently stuck their fingers into the wind and had a Road to Damascus moment on gay marriage does not denote overwhelming, unstoppable momentum for universal gay-marriage rights in the U.S. This is especially true given the probability that the Supreme Court decisions on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 will serve only to open the door a little wider for states to decide the issue themselves. Yes, it’s a perilous game trying to predict how the Supreme Court will rule in those two cases. Recall that many of the same court watchers predicting victory for gay marriage also predicted the Roberts court would overturn the individual mandate in Obamacare. But the range of possibilities points to partial victories for gay-marriage supporters, with the justices leaving it up to states to decide the issue.