3 Signs Americans’ Views on Same-Sex Marriage Are Changing

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Same-sex marriage and LGBTQ rights in general have faced a great deal of opposition over the years, and still do today. However, there have been a number of equal rights victories in the last few months, specifically the pro-marriage ruling from a federal judge in Texas and the Supreme Court’s decision not to intervene in lower court rulings, which effectively legalized same-sex marriage for Wisconsin and a number of other states. Tuesday also saw federal judges overturn state bans on same-sex marriage in Mississippi and Arkansas, although there will no rush for to the alter because both orders are on hold for a state appeal.

Additionally, Alaska’s same-sex marriage ban, which has had the ban in place for 16 years, was overturned recently. District Judge Timothy Burgess wrote in his ruling that, “The plaintiffs in this case do not ask the court to recognize an entirely new fundamental right to same-sex marriage; rather, plaintiffs wish to participate in the existing liberty granted to other couples to make a deeply personal choice about a private family matter.” While the state is planning to appeal, Gov. Sean Parnell said that, “As Alaska’s governor, I have a duty to defend and uphold the law and the Alaska Constitution,” but given the Supreme Court’s latest 6-3 decision, it’s questionable how far an appeal could take them.

After so many legal victories and law turn-arounds, it seems an ideal time to talk about the social receptivity of same-sex marriage and LGBTQ rights and how that too has seen intense change in the last few decades. In particular, there’s been change on political, religious, and demographic fronts.

Catholic Church: LGBTQ Enemy No Longer?

The Vatican held a meeting of bishops recently to draft a document with pro-LGBTQ sentiment included. This is not the first time Pope Francis has reached out to the gay community in an attempt to mitigate some of the negative messages previous leaders of the Catholic church have put out. The document, which has yet to be signed and released in its complete form, asked that church leaders attempt to be more open to those members who do not live the life codified by the religious text as being correct, asking for “courageous pastoral choices” in welcoming those outside heteronormative family structures, according to The New York Times.

The document asks pastors to be recognize the “gifts and qualities” that members of the gay community have to offer, and when dealing with divorced and remarried Catholics, that they depart from “any language or behavior that might make them feel discriminated against.”

The church remains bigoted against members of the LGBTQ community in many ways to this day, and same-sex marriage is among the list of items the church does not approve of; but all in all, the document is likely to be a step in the right direction. “The Church turns respectfully to those who participate in her life in an incomplete and imperfect way, appreciating the positive values they contain rather than their limitations and shortcomings,” the bishops said.

Republicans Change Their Tune

Republicans, as a party, may not be the biggest set of proponents for same-sex marriage and equal rights for LGBTQ couples. That honor went to Democrats a long time ago, but that doesn’t mean all Republicans are as anti-same-sex marriage as Rep. W. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), who once said that, “Anybody who knows something about the history of the human race knows that there is no civilization which has condoned homosexual marriage widely and openly that has long survived,” according to The Huffington Post. After all, Akin is king of inappropriate statements. Some members of the Republican party are supportive of same-sex marriage and are working to modernize their party’s stance.

Tyler Deaton, manager of Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry, is working with $1 million in backing to “reform the platform” of Republicans by 2016 in order to remove anti-gay language. “The Republican Party in Massachusetts is a pro-freedom-to-marry party, except for a small group of activists who manged to organize themselves and influence the outcome of the convention,” said Deaton, according to The Huffington Post. “It’s symptomatic of a lack of organization by all of the pro-freedom-to-marry Republicans who are the majority in Massachusetts and know that the Republican Party in Massachusetts has to move forward on this issue to be viable.”

He is not alone. Former Republican Spokesman James Richardson wrote a recent op-ed for The Washington Post, saying:

Throughout my career I’ve publicly advocated for the freedom to marry, urging the party for which I work to allow gay men and women to wed even as I never openly disclosed my personal stake. I’ve preached the small-government virtues of equal marriage, echoing conservative case that had been made many times before by thinkers more eloquent and far brighter than myself. Never once did I write that I am gay.”

Equal Rights: Not Just a Young Man’s/Woman’s Game

A Pew Research poll released in March of last year shows that an incredible number of Americans have changed their minds to supporting same-sex marriage — one in four, in fact. This is big news because it’s proof that gay marriage does not only have the support of younger generations, such as the Millennials. These new adults grew up in a far more inclusive and pro-LGBTQ rights time, but the 14% of the 49 total in favor of gay marriage are individuals who once took an opposing stance, suggesting that cemented points of view can be changed.

Hillary Clinton is on particularly salient example of this. In an interview with NPR, she told Terry Gross that her change on same-sex marriage was not done for political reasons. “I did not grow up even imagining gay marriage, and I don’t think you probably did, either,” she said. “This was an incredibly new and important idea that people on the front lines of the gay rights movement began to talk about and slowly, but surely, convincing others of the rightness of that position. And when I was ready to say what I said, I said it.”

Follow Anthea Mitchell on Twitter @AntheaWSCS

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