Putting the genie back in the bottle
Just a year ago, many conservative pundits were pointing out that the number of states that had adopted marriage equality, and where a majority of the citizens of said states supported it, meant that there weren’t enough states left to ratify a constitutional amendment. Then we have polls released just this week that not only show that a majority of americans support marriage equality, but that a whopping 63% believe that marriage equality is a constitutional right and that the court should rule it so!
I have to point out that back in 1971, four years after a unanimous Supreme Court had struck down bans on interracial marriage, that a majority of americans disagreed with that decision. But no one even tried to pass a federal constitutional amendment to allow states to begin banning interracial marriage again. I don’t believe that anyone could make a credible run at an amendment to ban gay marriage now when a majority of americans support gay marriage.
I should point out, that while 63 percent said they thought the constitution protects the right, a “mere” 57% said they fully support it. Which means that about 6% are personally opposed to queers marrying each other, but also believe it should be legal. That isn’t a contradiction. Lots of us disapprove of things that we also don’t think should be illegal for other people to do if they really want.
The most interesting statistic on that, as always, is the demographic number. We’re used to, in these polls, seeing that young people are more supportive of gay rights than older people. So it is no surprise that roughly 73% of those under the age of 50 are in favor of marriage equality. But the surprise is that just over 52% of people aged 50 and older are also in favor. It’s almost evenly split, but for a long time it was a clear majority of older people who disapproved. Of course, some of that shift has been a simple matter of aging. People who were in their late 40s when polls were taken a few years ago, and were therefore at least slight more likely to be in favor of marriage equality, are now in the older cohort, and they’re brought their beliefs with them. But aging alone doesn’t account for the change. So in the last few years, some of those older people who previously opposed it or answered that they weren’t sure have changed their minds.
It’s that last piece, I know, that some of the haters hang onto. They remain convinced that somehow, if they just keep screaming about how horrible and icky gay people are, that they can start getting people to change their minds the other way.
I don’t think so. I continue to believe that our two best weapon are visibility and familiarity. The more people who know actual gay people—and specifically, the more they see their own relatives and the relatives of their friends not just be out, but stand in line for marriage licenses and have their weddings and so forth without the world coming crashing down—the more supportive they become.
The cliché is that you can’t put the genie back in the bottle. I agree that the marriage equality genie is out and isn’t going back. More importantly, none of us queers are going to allow ourselves to be chased back into the closet.