Feature

Gay marriage: The next battleground

In spite of the losses on election night in Arizona, Florida, and Caliornia is a cultural shift in opinion underway?

Civil-rights movements have two defining characteristics, said John Corvino in the Los Angeles Times. They suffer heartbreaking setbacks along the way, as we were reminded on election night when voters in Arizona, Florida, and California voted to ban same-sex marriage; and they always succeed in the end. Proposition 8—which amended California’s constitution to ban gay marriage—passed by only 52 percent to 48 percent, when a similar ban in 2000 attracted 61 percent of the vote. Clearly, there is a large and rapid “cultural shift” underway across the nation in favor of marriage equality. We may have lost this battle, but the war is one that “slowly but surely, gay-rights advocates are winning.”

Don’t be so sure, said William Duncan in National Review Online. In the space of only a decade, no fewer than 30 states “have amended their constitutions to protect the definition of marriage”—a display of deep public conviction that has no precedent in American history. Last week, voters of both parties and every class and color supported these amendments; it’s not just religious conservatives who are repulsed by same-sex marriages. Tell me about it, said LaDoris Cordell in the San Francisco Chronicle. “As an African-American lesbian,” I was deeply hurt to learn that a staggering 70 percent of black voters in California voted to “oppress others in exactly the same way” that they themselves were once oppressed. Gays and lesbians are left with no choice but to fight for our civil rights the same way blacks were forced to: in the courts.

That may not be the smartest strategy, said Jeffrey Rosen in The New Republic. There wouldn’t even have been a Proposition 8 if California’s Supreme Court hadn’t legalized gay marriage by judicial fiat. By so doing, the justices sparked a “constitutional backlash” and, I believe, “set back the cause of gay marriage across the country.” In the long run, “the only way to put anti-discrimination bans on a firm footing is to build support for them in the political process.” And the only way we do that is by persuasion, said Andrew Sullivan in TheAtlantic.com. Rather than fan the flames of a new culture war, we gay people “need patience and relentlessness in explaining our lives,” showing straight America that our love for our partners is genuine and poses no threat to anyone. Through our dignity and our resilience, we will eventually transform last week’s defeat into tomorrow’s victory.

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