Thursday, 10 May 2012

US Gay Marriage: The Sun Is Setting On The Opposition


This week North Carolina constitutionally banned gay marriage and civil unions; it becomes the 31st state to do so either legally or in their constitution. In total nine states have openly accepted gay marriage (New York, New Hampshire, Iowa, Massachusetts, Vermont, DC, Maryland, Connecticut and Washington). By simply looking at the numbers it would appear that gay marriage support is localised to a small northern enclave while outright condemnation holds sway over much of the south of the country. However, while the numbers look very one-sided there is cause for hope.

President Obama joined other prominent figures including his own VP, in supporting gay marriage. Stating 'same sex couples should be able to get married,' on ABC, the broadcast was watched as avidly as 'the moon landing.' Even though this can be interpreted as a move to win over liberal voters for the presidential elections in November he is the first President to come out in support of gay marriage and adds an impetus to the debate.

Gay marriage also has wide support from both traditional and new media. As Rob Dreher, editor of the American Conservative, states on the BBC's website 'it is impossible to overstate the depth and breadth of media support for same-sex marriage. In my newsroom experience, it is taken as given that any opposition to gay marriage can only come from rank bigotry.' Links are clearly drawn between traditional marriage and segregationist beliefs meaning that the media tends to vilify any attempt to defend 'traditional' values and religious beliefs as out-of-touch or actually bigoted. A whole new generation of journalists wish to experience their own version of the black civil rights struggle. This media attitude means that it may become the norm to vilify the opposition and see their religious and conservative views as bigoted.

There is also a generational divide when it comes to the support, or otherwise, of same-sex marriage. Polling data shows a stark difference between the views of millennial young adults and the older generations. Indeed they show a 26% increase in support and a 20% drop in opposition! As a twenty year-old, I cannot remember a time where race or sex was openly used to discriminate. It is quite possible that the children of today will grow up not remembering a time when sexual orientation was such a reason and I hope with all my heart that it happens as soon as possible.

To conclude, while a state map would show a crushing defeat of same-sex marriage as it is crushed by the traditional southern states, other reasons show that such opposition is fighting a slow defeat. By coming out in support of gay marriage President Obama has confirmed the rise of support among the political and social elites in America. Coupled with this, the majority of mainstream media has also taken the side of the gay-rights activists and even openly condemn opposition views. These views are also on the way out with younger generations opening themselves to more and more liberal ideas, often not understanding the religious and traditionalist arguments presented by their elders. All in all it seems clear that the sun is sinking on the opposition to same-sex marriage in the United States and there is rarely been a prettier sunset.

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