The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has posted a slide-show presentation of changes in support for same-sex marriage. There’s no new news here. Rising support for same-sex marriage has been widely reported. Not surprisingly, secularists are most supportive, religious people less so. Democrats are more supportive, Republicans less so. Young people more so, older people less so.
There are some small details worth noticing. Support has recently declined among Catholics, as well as among people over 50. Conservative resistance is hardening.
But the trend remains: people are more supportive of gay marriage today then they were ten years ago.
As I wrote in the October Public Square in First Things, we face a real challenge in making our resistance to homosexual marriage persuasive. This is a problem, because without compelling reasons most American default to a libertarian stance: as long as nobody is being harmed, then it’s their right….
Should we be pessimistic? Perhaps, but I find myself thinking back to the Equal Right Amendment. In the early seventies it seemed a sure thing. But it ran out of gas, in large part because women’s liberation was so successful. By the late seventies it didn’t seem all that urgent anymore.
Perhaps the widespread success of sexual liberation will have the same effect. A certain amount of support for gay marriage comes for the desire to be “affirming.” OK, but today self-confident homosexuals are high-powered Wall Street lawyers, surgeons, and CEOs of important companies. That fact may take away some of the moral urgency on behalf of gay marriage that many middle-of-the-road people feel.
That and the challenges facing men and women who are trying to get and stay married. Anxiety about our fraying culture of traditional marriage may—and I emphasize only may—mix with a relaxed sense of moral urgency, thus creating conditions for some second thoughts.