Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The world turned upside down

I would not have predicted this, even five years ago. Hell, even last year. WaPo poll says 54% of voters think gay marriage should be legal -- and that's using the word marriage, not civil unions. What's more, 39% "strongly" agree, compared with 30% who strongly disagree.

For sure, the culture changes over time. But the stigma of homosexuality was so profound, so widespread, so ancient, that such a seismic collapse seemed inconceivable. The first legal recognition of slavery in what was to become the United States occurred in Virginia in 1654. It took more than 200 years and a horrific war for slavery to end in the United States, and another 100 years before African Americans received full legal recognition of equality. (Of course, that's still only on paper, as the composition of our prison populations attests.)

It will be a few more years, to be sure, until lesbians and gay men achieve legal equality, but just think -- when the Mattachine Society was founded in 1950, its membership was secret and the name referred to a French tradition of performers who never appeared unmasked. Homosexuality was a crime in much of the United States until 2003. The new poll shows a nearly 20 percentage point  increase in support for gay marriage in just a few years.

The Republican party successfully used gay marriage as a wedge issue to drive voters to the polls in its favor right through the 2004 election. Believe it or not, in the face of this tectonic shift, support for gay marriage among Republicans has actually declined. But it won't work in the party's favor any more.


1 comment:

kathy a. said...

there was an article in the LATimes the other day, also remarking on the fast progress of civil rights for gays:,0,5637291.story

as impatient as many of us are for faster changes and full equality, it is rather remarkable to see so many changes in so short a time -- particularly compared to other struggles for equality.

in part this must be because earlier struggles for equality, even though they remain imperfectly realized, have been successful. i also think that attitudes are influenced by realizing that our friends, neighbors, relatives -- people just like us -- are LGBT. who they fall in love with does not invalidate everything else about them.

others may have opinions about the marital choices of straight people -- but marriage is nonetheless a fundamental civil right for straight people. prisoners can marry. straight people can marry totally unsuitable others, marry for bad reasons, marry a virtual stranger in las vegas while drunk, marry as many times as they wish (consecutively).

if all the bad examples of straight marriages do not threaten anybody else's marriage -- well, the marriage of a loving and committed same-sex couple cannot threaten the institution, either.

i think it is kind of creepy that the anti-gay-marriage people spend so much time fretting and opinionating about other people's sex lives. (so do the anti-choice people, who by coincidence tend to be the same people.) what's up with that? they always use terms like "sanctity of marriage" and "sanctity of life" -- which by my definition means that decisions within my marriage and about my body are protected from the interference of meddlers. i wish for everyone to have that same freedom.