“Do you think marriages between same-sex couples should or should not be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages?”
It’s a question The Gallup Poll has included in its national survey since 1996, but this year’s results yielded some truly remarkable results: namely, a staggering 60% of Americans now support gay marriage––up five points from last year, and the highest percentage the poll has ever seen. (Predictably, Democratic support increased the most, but even 37% of Republicans now support marriage equality.)
The rise in support for marriage equality is the fastest recorded for any social or political issue, since Gallup started polling, surprising even the most optimistic supporters of the freedom to marry.
What with the Supreme Court expected to issue a historical ruling on the constitutionality of gay marriage at the end of the June, the results couldn’t be coming at a better time since the courts don’t like to get too far in front of popular opinion. At this point, they are now behind where voters stand.
But it all begs the question: What exactly are we doing right to make such historic change?
Here are five reasons Americans are cozying up to the idea of same-sex marriage faster than you can say Pat Robertson…
1. Social Media
Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have proven to be essential tools in the fight. Think of the impact of Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project, or Obama’s not-so-offhand hashtags like #MarriageEquality and #LoveIsLove (both of which instantly reached roughly 150 million people). Proposition 8 picked up steam thanks in no small part to a simple #PROP8 hashtag. Evan Wolfson’s Freedom to Marry managed to literally reframe the very language of the debate from “same-sex marriage” and “marriage equality” to freedom to marry, reminding even the opposition that no matter your personal views, it is liberty itself that is at stake. Check out its current Love Must Win campaign.
And thousands of people changed their Facebook profile pic to the “equality” symbol at the behest of the Human Rights Campaign. Plus, there are more and more online destinations for activists to preach acceptance, offer community support, and bolster visibility, all of which is altering public perception for the better.
2. Millennials Are Exceptionally Accepting
A 2013 poll by The Pew Research Center demonstrated that Americans born after 1980 are far more likely to approve of same-sex unions––far more than any previous generation. (In total, 70% of the 1,501 adults polled were in full approval.) Arguably, this can be chalked up to millennials’ coming-of-age in the advent of social media, getting exposed early to positive depictions of gay life in popular culture, and being more likely to have close friends or family members who are happily out of the closet. In addition, Millenials, both gay and straight, are the generation living the most like us. In other words, they are staying single longer, dating later into life, and more likely to delay marriage until they are really ready.
3. Religious Groups Are Coming Around
This sounded impossible a decade. For the first time in history, the majority of American religious groups are championing the idea of equality. According to data released last month by the Public Research Institute, a poll interviewing 40,000 people found that 60% of Catholics, 62% of mainline Protestants, and 77% of Jewish Americans either favor or strongly favor the idea. Remarkably, the data even suggests that 67% of Methodists now approve as well. Add to this the fact that every antigay crusader must apparently be caught turning tricks or trolling a gay site at some point in their career, and it becomes clear why religious Americans are starting to change their tune.
4. …And Young Americans Aren’t All That Interested In Religion Anyway
Organized religion doesn’t quite do it for the millennials, who are far more likely to consider themselves “nones” (no religious affiliation) than previous generations. All in all, millennials are far more embracing of individualism and aren’t so gung-ho for dogma, societal rules, and regulations. This change in America’s cultural climate dovetails with the LGBT movement. Because millennials aren’t interested in dogma, they’re far more likely to be open-minded about different kinds of romantic relationships.
5. More People Are Coming Out Every Day
Influential figures and high-profile stars are coming out in droves these days––far more than any other time in history. And gay people in general are far less likely to hide in the closet for the entirety of their lives. That means virtually every American will know someone who’s openly gay at some point, making it increasingly difficult to remain ignorant or homophobic (unless you’re absolutely determined to be unintelligent).
Take, for instance, the coming out last year of American footballer Michael Sam or British Olympian Tom Daley. These are personable, talented and attractive young men with literally millions of worldwide fans. How can the opposition counter that? Compare Sam’s ESPN video kissing his BF when becoming the first openly gay player drafted by the NFL to an angry Pat Robertson broadside. Or Daley talking so comfortably about his new boyfriend and just knowing that he likes guys up against a furious NOM press conference.
Put another way: By continuing to come out of the closet, gay people make it impossible for anyone else to stay in the dark.
What other factors have helped foster this attitudinal change? Have at it in the comments below