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.