In the wake of the Supreme Court’s legalization of same-sex marriage, cable news channels, social media, and politicians celebrated along with the LGBT community. Though fewer than five percent of American adults identify themselves as LGBT, politicians and pundits proclaimed the court’s decision as positive for all Americans, and a cause for celebration.
During the weeks prior to the decision, court-watchers commented that public attitudes had changed at an unprecedented rate, and that the court should follow that newly developed support and legalize gay marriage for the entire country. Though that message was repeated over and over again, it’s difficult to establish the extent of the actual attitude change.
As recently as 2013, Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton publically stated that she believed that marriage should be between one man and one woman. Yet barely two years later she praised the court’s decision and celebrated. Does that sudden shift reflect a new consciousness, or mere political calculation?
While campaigning for president in 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama stated many times that he believed marriage should be between one man and one woman. Yet he reported that his attitude “evolved” to full support of same-sex marriage seven years later. Interestingly, the president discussed American attitudes toward racism a few days earlier, and stated that “racism is in America’s DNA” despite 150 years of steady improvement in racial relations. If racism hasn’t been eradicated through 150 years of attitude evolution, is it possible to believe that negative attitudes toward gay marriage have evolved to enthusiastic support, after less than a decade?
Perhaps acceptance of gay marriage has been easier than changing racial attitudes, because far fewer people are directly affected by the new legalization. Unless we are supporting a friend or relative LGBT member, most people face no danger or loss from legalized same-sex marriage. It’s easy to say, “Why not”? Claims of defending traditional marriage are hard to sustain, since they come primarily from organized religions, during an era in which formal adherence to religious teaching is rapidly waning.
If we believe that attitudes have rapidly changed, how do we measure them? Some organizations conduct public polling on this issue and others analyze samplings of social media posting. Neither of these approaches can be dependable for this issue, however. LGBT leaders, along with the hard left, have done an excellent job in positioning same-sex marriage as a proposition that’s embarrassing to oppose. When confronted by pollsters or social media on whether people support gay marriage, they know that they will be criticized or rejected if they don’t respond with a “yes.” It’s therefore impossible to determine whether a supportive response is heartfelt or produced as acquiescence to social pressures.
Regardless of the politics and campaigning, LGBT members are rightfully celebrating. Though many sincerely want to marry their partners, marriage may not be the real reason for celebration. Many want to celebrate winning a symbolic fight for social equality. Any right denied to a group because of their race, religion, or lifestyle is reason to fight for people excluded or marginalized from the mainstream.
Why was this multi-decade battle necessary? Total cost for both sides—lawyers, court-costs, advertising, travel, venue rental, etc.—has been enormous. Perhaps we need to ask, why governments—state or federal—must be involved in marriage, often the most personal part of life.
Do governments really have a stake in deciding who will marry whom? Many countries don’t have a licensing process for marriage. Some people might counter that idea, saying that the government must register marriages for legal reasons, such as responsibilities for children, property ownership, wills, etc. But all such issues could be handled for traditional marriages, as well as same-sex marriages by simply filing a standard form. Government intrusion into this process has been the cause of an unnecessary fight. And involving the US Supreme Court in something that can be handled by religious organizations or by the individuals themselves is egregious overkill.
My book “The Victory that Wasn’t” offers a fictional alternate history with a different kind of Military, and better outcomes for all Americans. It’s available on Amazon at http://amzn.to/1GUL8oX