“Honey, we’re on page two of the Washington Post.”
That’s what my husband said to me Saturday morning, when he and Dylan returned from their swimming class, as he left on the counter a page that had been ripped from the day’s newspaper, before turning around and taking Dylan outside to play with our neighbor’s two boys.
“Huh,” I said. It took a minute for it to register. Why on earth would we be in the Post? Then I picked up the paper and read the headline: “Slim majority back gay marriage, Post-ABC poll says.”
A slim majority of Americans now support gay marriage, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
The results underscore the nation’s increasingly tolerant views about homosexuals, and parallel a string of recent legal and legislative victories for gay rights advocates
Five years ago, at 36 percent, support for gay marriage barely topped a third of all Americans. Now, 53 percent say gay marriage should be legal, marking the first time in Post-ABC polling that a majority has said so.
“This is very consistent with a lot of other polling data we’ve seen and the general momentum we’ve seen over the past year and a half,” said Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, a leading pro-gay-marriage group. “As people have come to understand this is about loving, committed families dealing, like everyone, with tough times, they understand how unfair it is to treat them differently.”
Then I understood.
When we got married, the Post sent a reporter and a photographer to the wedding. Since then, our wedding pictures pop up almost every time there’s news related to same-sex marriage, and often when we least expect it. We were out on one of our “date days” (when we send the kids to school/daycare, take the day off and spend it together) last June, when we walked into a bakery for lunch and saw our wedding kiss on the cover of the Washington City Paper as we passed the newsstand, as part of an article on whether same-sex marriage has benefited area businesses.
On the one hand, it’s pretty cool to be a part of shifting public opinion on the issue. In February, a DailyKos poll showed 65% supporting civil unions. Earlier this month, the Pew Research Center showed increasing support for marriage equality.
The survey finds a continuing rise in support for same-sex marriage since 2009. Currently, 45% say they favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally while 46% are opposed. In Pew Research surveys conducted in 2010, 42% favored and 48% opposed gay marriage and in 2009, just 37% backed same-sex marriage while 54% were opposed.
Over the same period, there has been movement toward a liberal position on abortion. In 2009, for the first time in many years, the public was evenly divided over whether abortion should be legal or illegal in all or most cases. But support for legal abortion has recovered and now stands at about the same level as in 2008 (55% then, 54% today).
Independents have become more supportive of both gay marriage and legal abortion since 2009. Roughly half of independents (51%) now favor same-sex marriage, up from 37% in 2009. And 58% of independents say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared with 47% in Pew Research Center surveys two years ago.
On the other hand, there’s about 25 lbs. more of me in that picture than there is today.
(I stepped on the scale back in October, saw a number I didn’t like. I wasn’t surprised. For various reasons, I’d spent the last three years using food as an answer to frustration and depression. I was already planning to do something about it, and stepped on the scale to see how big a challenge I’d be facing. I resolved to do something about this year. So, in a repeat of what I did five years ago, I started counting calories and making better choices about food. I’m now down 25 lbs. from where I was when I stepped on the scale, and within 10 lbs. of my goal.)
“I demand a reshoot!” I said when I stepped outside. “Because there’s 25 lbs. more of me in that picture than there is now.”
Our neighbor, who had shared the article with us, laughed and said, “I love it that you guys are the face of same-sex marriage now!”
Well, I understand why our picture gets so much use. It’s obvious that we’re getting married, that we’re getting married in a church (thus adding religion to the context) and Parker hovering in the background as ring bearer makes it obvious that we’re a family.
One of the reasons we volunteered to be interviewed was to put help put a face on the issue. But, we were just one of many couples getting married in D.C. that first day. Really, there are lots more faces of same-sex marriage out there, and I think that’s what’s making the biggest difference.
Like I’ve said before, it makes a difference on the street where we live, and in countless other communities where our neighbors witness us going about our lives as a family, with the same ups and downs that any other family experiences. When we chat with our neighbors and with parents of our kids classmates and playmates, we talk about the things that any other family talks about. We talk about work, or the economy, or schools, and often about parenting as we exchange stories and advice, or just share experiences.
And if it’s no big deal to the parents, it’s no big deal to the kids. We found out quite by accident, in fact, that one of the kids in Parker’s aftercare program at school had lesbian moms. And when we asked Parker why he didn’t tell us this he said, “Because it wasn’t a big deal.” And it’s not a big deal to the kid across the street who invites Parker to his birthday party, or rings the doorbell and asks if Parker can come out to play. It’s not a big deal to the kids whose parents call to set up time for our kids to play together.
The issue remains divisive; as many adults “strongly” oppose gay marriage as strongly support it, and opposition rises to more than 2-1 among Republicans and conservatives and 3-1 among evangelical white Protestants, a core conservative group. But opposition to gay marriage has weakened in these groups from its levels a few years ago, and support has grown sharply among others – notably, among Catholics, political moderates, people in their 30s and 40s and men.
The GOP is already dealing with this. It may be true that things haven’t changed so much that Republicans can’t score political points with their base by defending the Defense of Marriage Act. (Instead of focusing on — oh, I don’t know — jobs, maybe?) But the handwriting is on the wall, as the GOP is already having to fight this battle with its younger generation of political operatives. Even Dubya descendants are a part of the shift. Back in February, former first daughter Barbara Bush announced her support for marriage equality, and her sister Jenna invited Ellen Degeneres to wed Portia de Rossi at her Dad’s ranch in Crawford, TX.
And that’s not all, an earlier Washington Post article suggested that President Obama’s decision not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, has been greeted with a collective yawn by African Americans.
It all ads up to marriage equality not being the wedge it used to be, because increasingly gay people are not alien to many Americans. We and our families are not “them,” not “those people.” We’re neighbors and coworkers. We’re friends and family. We’re the gay dad at the school bus each morning, or the lesbian mom chaing a PTA committee.
In the past four decades, growing numbers of gays have come out of the closet and into the mainstream of American life. As a consequence, 4-in-10 Americans now report that some of their close friends or family members are gays or lesbians, according to a recent national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.
About half of all women, young people, college graduates, political liberals and mainline Protestants say that someone close to them is gay, the survey found. But significantly fewer men, conservative Republicans and older Americans report that a good friend or family member is homosexual.
People know us, and it makes a difference, a 2009 Gallup poll showed that knowing someone gay or lesbian affects people’s views.
The Gallup Poll data reviewed above show conclusively that many views toward gay and lesbian issues are related — in some instances, strongly so — to personal experience with individuals who are gay or lesbian. There are two plausible explanations for this relationship. One is that exposure to gays and lesbians leads to greater acceptance, regardless of one’s ideological leanings. The second is that people who are more accepting of gays and lesbians are more likely to put themselves into situations in which they are exposed to gays and lesbians — in terms of cities and regions of residence, as well as workplace and social choices. Both of these processes are at work, though it is difficult to say which is more important.
Whatever the direction of causality, the data do make a strong case that knowing someone who is gay or lesbian fosters more accepting attitudes on many of the issues surrounding gay and lesbian relations today.
It makes a difference not just in our neighborhoods, our schools and our communities, but also in our statehouses.
Of America’s 7,382 state legislators, only 85 are openly gay or lesbian. They are, however, playing an outsized and often impassioned role when the agenda turns to recognizing same-sex couples with civil unions or full marriage rights.
…The gay lawmakers have impact in two important ways. Their speeches, often evoking personal themes, can sometimes sway wavering colleagues, and they can forge collegial relationships even with ideological foes through day-to-day professional and social interaction.
…The Maryland marriage bill cleared the Senate by a 25-21 vote on Feb. 24. The debate included a speech by the chamber’s only openly gay member, Richard Madaleno, citing his partner of 10 years and their two children.
“He is my spouse in every sense of the word, but to the law, he remains a legal stranger,” Madaleno said.
Timing is uncertain for a vote in the Maryland House, which has six openly gay members. But freshman lawmaker Mary Washington, a lesbian from Baltimore, has been anticipating the chance to speak in support of the bill.
“It will be an important moment in Maryland history,” she said. “I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to speak up, not just for myself but for the many families in Maryland who need protection.”
It’s harder to hate someone when you live and work next to them each day. It’s harder to deny someone the things you take for granted when their kids play with yours, and go to each other’s birthday parties.
That’s not because we’re “the face of same-sex marriage,” but because you it’s in the next cubicle, sitting next to you on the bus, tending the law at the house across the street, delivering cookies for the school bake sale, etc. It’s because it’s the face of your co-worker, your neighbor, your friend, your son, your daughter, your brother, your sister, or your grandchild.