Gay marriage: A turning point?

New York is the sixth and largest state to legalize gay marriage; the decision doubles the number of Americans with the right to same-sex marriage.

Gay marriage has hit the “tipping point,” said John Avlon in With its recent landmark vote to legalize gay marriage, New York state’s legislature delivered a major victory in the struggle for “marriage equality across the nation.” Four conservative Republican state senators provided “the margin of victory”—proof that public opinion has “shifted dramatically in favor of recognizing same-sex marriages.” As Republican state Sen. James Alesi said in explaining why he’d overcome his own prejudices, “If you expect equality and freedom for yourself, you have to extend it to other people.” The Republican support makes this a very big deal, said Andrew Sullivan, also in So does the fact that New York’s legalization of gay marriage—it’s the sixth and largest state to do so—doubles the number of Americans with the right to marry the “person they love, even if they are gay.”

But gay-rights campaigners shouldn’t “uncork the champagne just yet,” said USA Today in an editorial. Support for gay marriage remains “anything but uniform” across the U.S. Thirty states have written gay marriage bans into their constitutions, and so far not a single state has passed a referendum legalizing same-sex unions. In fact, “in direct votes of the people—and there have been 31—marriage defined as one man, one woman has never lost,” said Maggie Gallagher in The Wall Street Journal. There’s a simple explanation: Most Americans continue to “stubbornly believe” that marriage should be defined “only as the union of one man and one woman.”

Still, the national mood could quickly change, said the Chicago Tribune. More than one third of Americans now live in states that permit gay marriage or civil unions. That gives the other two thirds a good chance to look at “what happens when government recognizes same-sex partnerships as a civil right.” If no one’s religious beliefs or practices are infringed, and the sky doesn’t fall, “that could turn out to be the most persuasive evidence of all.” Even the U.S. Supreme Court may be influenced by the changing facts on the ground, said Walter Dellinger in Justices won’t admit it, but they can be swayed by what one legal scholar calls the “normative power of the actual.” The “more common gay marriage becomes,” the more likely it is that laws banning it will eventually be declared unconstitutional.

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