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The Big Wedge

April 20, 2011

Marriage Equality Is Now The Majority Position

Like I said before, resistance is futile.  It looks kind of like a big wedge, doesn’t it?  Driving into the far right?

[Update:  the law firm Boehner picked to defend DOMA when the White House refused, Atlanta-based King & Spaulding, has withdrawn.  This underscores my point about how being anti-marriage equality is the losing side and nobody smart wants to be on it right now.]

The chart is from the best number-crunching poll analysts in political commentary, Nate Silver and the fivethirtyeight crew, now blogging at the New York Times.  In the last post, I borrowed several charts from fivethirtyeight.  I said that the trend lines were in the process of crossing.  That was true.  They have now crossed.

I also said something that I still can’t tell if I was right or wrong about.  In August of last year, I said that I wasn’t convinced that anyone’s mind was being changed; that so much of this is about generational shifts in voters, and there’s such a gulf between younger and older voters, that it was simply a matter of time.  I’m still convinced that the demographic wave makes this as foregone a conclusion as anything in social justice.  But the acceleration shows that people must be changing their minds.

I’m still a cynic.  I think a lot of this may just be a tipping-point effect, where people are voicing the position that they think is going to win.  In a way, I’m kind of fine with that.  It’s what folks really mean when they talk about being “on the right side of history.”  Being anti-marriage equality is pretty sure to be a position that seems radical and bigoted in the future, so folks either have to double down on the bigotry of get on the equality bandwagon.

But I’ll admit I could be wrong.  It could be that people are being persuaded because with the conversation open they just see that equality is the better position.  Maybe. 

The group of people that I least suspect of acting on principle is elected officials.  In New York, marriage equality failed with a friendly but hopelessly wounded Governor and a weak, divided Democratic caucus in the Senate, but there are swing votes, and the moves in public opinion will only help now that New York has a strong Governor and a less rudderless Democratic caucus. 

Even people who are creatures of the political right wing are walking away from anti-gay bigotry.  From Speaker John Boehner to the Tea Party rank and file, the folks the bigots need for support would rather pass on this issue now.  That leaves the few, the shrill, the people for whom hating on gays is a serious passion, increasingly isolated.  And the more this country is one that extends political and social equality to gay, lesbian, bi and queer folks, the more palatable it is for people who have spent their lives in the closet to come out, the more those ranks may thin.

To be purely strategic here, I think this is a huge wedge issue.  The GOP is stuck sucking up to the bigots on this issue to keep its base.  It’s not clear it can get the turnout from social conservatives if they don’t keep the antigay fires burning, but those issues now lose them independents at a time when their clown-car candidates and <a href=”“>radical policies are already making the GOP’s appeal to moderates and independents tenuous.

It’s easy for me to take the long view, because I already got to marry the person I wanted to marry, and every state recognizes my marriage and nobody gives me shit at work for having a picture of my spouse in my office.  But I’m seeing this as a battle that’s far from over, but where the outcome isn’t really in doubt, and the question is whether it’s just a win or a rout.  What I’m saying is that I hope that in addition to winning a lot of people rights they’ve long been denied, we’re witnessing a broad coalition of people who support GLBT equality doing permanent, widespread damage to the entire conservative movement agenda.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Marissa permalink
    April 21, 2011 1:46 am

    I only have on data point for you, but my husband changed his mind. When I met him years ago, he was one of those insidious homophobes that claimed he was fine with Teh Gays as long as they kept their gayness private (ugh!). After years of talking about marriage equality and GLBTQ rights, he really came around. We were arguing about gay marriage one night and he was throwing out all the usual trash about tradition and the children! and religion, etc. I finally said to him, “You don’t really care about any of that. You oppose gay marriage because you think it’s icky when two men kiss. And whatever, ok. But in this country, you need a higher legal standard than ‘icky’ to ban something.”

    He thought about that for days and came back to me and said he’d changed his mind. Since then, he’s been one of the most vocal proponents of marriage equality I know, and he’s used that same argument on his friends. I don’t know if it’s ever worked on them, but I can tell you that there is at least one American who changed his mind. And I give him credit for the 180 he pulled there. Watching him yell at his straight, white, conservative friends about their latent homophobia is stupendously fun :)

    • Jen permalink
      April 21, 2011 8:50 pm

      I’ll add my data point as well. My mother-in-law is a devoted Christian who was also opposed to homosexuality and gay rights. Then her daughter came out, and like some (sadly, not all) in her position, she made a complete turnaround. When her church left their denomination over the issue of gay marriage, she was furious and left the church. Slowly, I think people are having their minds changed – not so much by rhetoric, but by knowing people who care about gay rights. The more people who come out either as gay or as allies, the more pressure there will be to reconsider outdated opinions.

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