The Inevitability Of Marriage Equality

Ben Smith writes that the inevitability of gay marriage is in doubt:

After a year that saw laws allowing same-sex marriage expand from a lonely toehold in Massachusetts to five other states and, likely, the District of Columbia, the defeats have served at the least as a reality check to proponents of gay marriage.

A Maine referendum that was seen as the best chance for popular approval of same-sex marriage instead was soundly defeated. The state senate in liberal New York voted down a marriage bill by a margin – 38 to 24 – that stunned advocates and the state’s governor, who had predicted victory. And a same-sex marriage measure limped to the floor of the New Jersey state senate Thursday after squeaking out of committee over the opposition of prominent Democrats.

“The events of the last few months have put a serious dent in the idea that gay marriage is inevitable,” said Maggie Gallagher, the president of the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes same-sex marriage.

The movement to expand marriage to include gays and lesbians has gathered force from the perception that it’s a historic civil rights battle, and that its foes are – as advocates often say – on the “wrong side of history.” That’s a message that has animated supporters, silenced opposition – just one New York legislator, for instance, stood up to explain his “no” vote – and generated its own momentum. It has also penetrated broadly into the culture, said Democratic pollster Diane Feldman, whose surveys have found a solid majority of Americans view same-sex marriage as inevitable, “and are variously pleased or resigned to that.”

The events of this year are meaningless with regards to the belief that acceptance of same-sex marriage is inevitable. Republicans gained many votes in 2004 by using referendums on same sex marriage to get out the vote. Conditions have not changed that much since then. What is important is that tolerance is far greater among younger voters:

A Gallup poll from May, for instance, found that 18 to 29 year olds favor same-sex marriage by a margin of 59% to 37%, while people 65 and over oppose it by an even wider margin. And other studies have suggested the support among young voters is broad, and stretches across regions. One recent Columbia University study reported that more than 50% of 18-29 year olds in 38 states support same-sex marriage.

Acceptance of same-sex marriage is inevitable, but it is probably still several years away. I thought this was the case before the matters mentioned above were considered and the outcome this year does not change the long term trend towards greater tolerance.

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