Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Most Under-Reported Story of 2012 – The Shift In Public Attitude Towards Gay and Lesbian Marriage

The Press and Republicans Stuck in 2004

Public opinion and public attitudes are a dynamic activity.  The position of the majority of the population is always shifting; note the current lead that Mr. Obama has in major polling against Mr. Romney, compared to the highly unfavorable polls that Mr. Obama had just a few months ago (and will have a few months from now).  It is the job of the Press to document and report current events, but a lazy and somewhat unintelligent press frequently does not do that job. (Okay, Politico has this story, but then those folks are intelligent, experienced and knowledgeable reporters, unlike the mainstream media.)

Case in point is the public attitude towards legalizing marriage for gay and lesbian couples.  In the early part of the last decade public opinion was firmly against such actions.  Republicans sensed this and put as many measures prohibiting same sex marriage on the ballots as they could.  Many observers think that the turnout to support such measures were the only thing that kept George Bush in the White House for a second term.

But in a stunning development public attitude has radically changed.  This is likely because people have recognized that allowing same sex marriage has no impact on anyone other than the same sex couples who marry.  Massachusetts has had same sex marriage for years, and its most famous current denizen, Mitt Romney seems to have continued his strong marriage with no ill effects from living in that state. 

Notice that North Carolina will now vote on same sex marriage, but the canny Republican legislators scheduled the vote for the May primary, not the fall general election.  They are smart enough to have recognized the shift in public opinion even in a southern state like North Carolina and so have deliberately not scheduled the vote in the November election where defeat of the ban would be much more likely.

All of this brings us to Britain, where the Conservative leadership of all people is supporting same sex marriage.

Americans watching the latest push for social change in Britain might feel as if they had stepped into an alternative political universe: Here, the Conservatives are leading the charge for same-sex marriage.

The Conservative party in Britain had previously been strongly anti-gay, and the current Conservative Prime Minister has apologized for that position.  As to why he supports marriage equality, he succinctly summarizes it this way.

“I don’t support gay marriage despite being a Conservative,” Cameron said in a recent landmark speech on the issue. “I support gay marriage because I am a Conservative.”

which is about all that is needed to be said.

Parliament is expected to pass laws allowing civil same sex marriages, despite the usual opposition from religious leaders who strangely oppose basic rights and want to impose their religious views on people.  But after several years of marriage equality in Britain people will look back and wonder what all the fuss was about.

One of the lead attorneys in the case in California that is trying to get the Supreme Court to rule that laws against marriage equality are unconstitutional is a very Conservative former member of the Bush Administration.  Theodore Olsen is involved in the case because he echo’s Mr. Cameron’s statement that supporting gay marriage is a Conservative position.

In this country marriage equality is now starting to be approved in several more states.  Legislators do not fear political backlash and voting in the fall on measures in several states may well signal approval rather than denial of equality.  This is the result of a dramatic change in public perception on an issue, and hopefully some day both the national press and the Conservative components of both parties will catch on to what his happening. 

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