Dispatches from the Creation Wars

A Prediction on Gay Marriage

Don M. sent me a link to the Discount Blogger and I came across this post on gay marriage, which includes the following statement:

I wish conservatives would just understand that this is something they’re going to be remembered for 50…100 years down the road. When gay people are allowed to marry and when we’re raising healthy, productive families and are full members of society, we’ll look back to the early part of this century and wonder how anyone could have done what conservatives tried to do.

I agree completely, and was just saying this to Lynn last night. I don’t think it will take that long, either. It has been 35 years since the Loving v Virginia decision struck down state laws against interracial marriages, decisions that prompted word-for-word the same legal arguments being used against gay marriages today. And I would bet that even by 1980, very few Americans would have found those arguments compelling. I don’t think anyone is going to look back on it and specifically blame Orrin Hatch or President Bush for their opposition, at least no one outside the professional pundits or historians. But I do think that within 25 years at the most, the prevailing opinion in the US will be to wonder what all the fuss was about.

Public opinion evolves on such issues, and as a general rule it evolves for the better. Over the course of the last century or so, we have gradually, bit by bit, extended the promises and principles of the Declaration of Independence and made them a reality for previously disenfranchised groups. In all cases, the prevailing public opinion, outside of the pockets of serious bigotry, moved gradually from passionate opposition to grudging acceptance to, in hindsight, the feeling that what was fought for was so obviously correct, why was it so fiercely opposed in the first place?

The battle over giving women the right to vote or attend college or work outside the home was hard fought and took decades. Who today other than the most backward-thinking and reactionary would oppose the change? The civil rights battles of the 50s and 60s were violently opposed (quite literally), but who today outside of the pockets of real racism thinks that Truman was wrong to integrate the military, or that the Voting Rights Act was misguided? Today’s battles over gay rights are leading in the same direction, of that I am certain.

25 years from now, only the most hidebound will not look back on the battles and wonder why it was such a big deal. As in past battles, the legal changes will presage changes in culture and public opinion where the previously heretical becomes the obvious and the normal. Most people will casually say, “Of course gay men and women can serve honorably in the military. Of course they can have stable marriages and families and raise children that are just like the rest of us. That is just self-evident to me now.”

The dramatic and hysterical rhetoric of those opposed to gay marriage (Rick Santorum said on the floor of the senate yesterday that the very survival of America is at stake!) shows only that they do not learn from history. The reaction to the extension of equal rights to women and blacks was met with the very same response, and the passage of time and the evolution of public opinion has thoroughly discredited those views. Your views will likewise end up on the dungheap of history, it will happen sooner than you think, and this will all be a very good thing. It’s not the end of America, it is the fulfillment of the promises and the principles that once gave rise, and continue to give life, to our grand experiment in freedom.


  1. #1 Bill Ware
    July 16, 2004

    Well, “A Conservative is a politician who embraces liberal causes… 50 to 100 years later.” Look how long it took them to agree that Social Security is a good thing.
    Speaking of higher education for women, even though her parents had only eighth grade educations, they sent my mom to Goucher College where she graduated in 1926 with a major in Romance Languages. Teaching and nursing were about the only areas open to women with college degrees at that time. She taught Latin and French in HS. She told me that back then they had come to accept that women could remain at their teaching jobs even after they were married. However, should they become “with child” as everyone expected they would, then they were to leave teaching to be home to tend to their husband and children from then on. Imagine that!

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