And Suddenly, The Door Just Gives Way

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The poll above (source here), conducted last December, is arguably the critical one. It’s of Americans living in the states that ban marriage rights for gay couples. Commissioned by Freedom To Marry, it reveals the seismic shift of the last few years. It helps explain why Utah – yes, Utah, is now evenly divided over the question; and why in Virginia, the state attorney general is refusing to defend the Commonwealth’s current ban in the courts. It helps explain why Catholic high-schoolers simply cannot comprehend why their teachers can be fired simply for marrying the person they love. It illuminates why younger evangelicals are so starkly different than their resolutely anti-gay predecessors.

There are interesting regional variations, as you’d expect:

The poll shows support in non-marriage states at 51%, with strongest numbers in the Central and Western parts of the country {59% and 53% of voters respectively). Even in the South, voters are split evenly on the freedom to marry, 46% in support and 46% opposed. In addition, the poll finds that regardless of personal views, 56% of voters believe that marriage will be legal in their state in a couple of years (including 49% among marriage opponents.)

Of course, it’s way too soon to declare the battle won. Far from it. But, to be honest, I’m floored by what has happened, especially by the now-even divide in the South.

Something has fundamentally changed since the late 1980s when I first made this argument. Gay people have become human in the eyes of most straights. Not perfect and not identical – but human in our capacity for love and commitment. And that is not, in the end, a political gain. It is a moral one. And it reveals, once again, that those who despair of persuading resistant majorities of core moral arguments in America are wrong. Americans, in the end, are open to persuasion. The task for those of us on the winning side, now, is to make sure that the liberties of the losers are protected; and that this new majority is never, ever as discriminatory toward the minority as the old one.