The real victory is to convert your opponents. Therefore the recent Gallup poll finding that 70 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage is a big deal, not just for the size of its numbers, but for the fact that that majority now includes 55 percent of self-identified Republicans. At this pivotal cultural moment, it is worth reflecting on what happened and what remains to be done.
It could be the end of a bitter culture war, or the start of a new one against conservative Christians who are not yet reconciled to the new status quo. I am on the winning side. I would like to be magnanimous in victory. It’s time to end the war.
Cultural change is happening for many reasons. The contraceptive pill separated sex from reproduction. The civil rights movement and the Vietnam War challenged traditional sources of moral authority. Psychiatrists began to look for real evidence that homosexuality was (as had been argued) a mental illness, and found that there was no such evidence. More importantly, a small group of incredibly brave homosexuals came out of the closet, stating that there was nothing wrong with them, and that they turned out to be surprisingly normal.
All of this has reduced prejudice against homosexuals. But it could not have generated support for same-sex marriage until it was a topical issue on the national agenda. This happened in 1993 when the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that it seemed likely that same-sex marriage would be recognized in that state. 1996 was the first year Gallup even asked a question about same-sex marriage, which only 27% of Americans supported.
Politics is not just about who wins political fights. It’s also about the issues that we struggle with, or even think about. Articles debating the pros and cons of the issue began to appear in newspapers and magazines across the country. Legislation to prevent recognition of same-sex marriage has been enacted in 30 states, but has died in many others. Millions of people read sympathetic reports about homosexuals in stable, loving relationships that seemed morally indistinguishable from themselves. It turned out that when opponents of same-sex marriage were in a hurry to justify their opinions, they found it very difficult to explain.
This might help us reflect on recent cases of bakers and florists who are struggling because they refuse to facilitate same-sex marriages. Like the early supporters of same-sex marriage, they have managed to find a place for themselves on the national agenda. They have their own cool reports, on sweet grandmothers threatened with financial ruin by legal action. There aren’t many such cases, but they are heavy, because everyone understands that what is at stake is whether people who hold conservative views on gender and sexuality have a legitimate place in the debate. American company. Conservative Christians fear the law will treat them as racists and push them to the margins of American society.
Any proposal to accommodate them in any way, like the fairness for all law that is currently languishing in Congress, is denounced like acquiescence to sectarianism. We are warned that any accommodation will trigger a flood of discrimination. But after the new Gallup poll, can we seriously support this?
The left ignores these concerns at its peril. As the Republican Party sinks deeper into the Trumpian illusion, I asked my conservative Christian friends, who fully understand how dangerous these developments are, what it would take to get them to vote for the Democrats. More than once I’ve been told, ‘I should see evidence that Democrats don’t hate me. (Yes Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump Asks Biden To Send Putin ‘Sincere Greetings’ Huma Abedin Announces Book Deal Mystery Surrounding Justice Pledging Over Journalist Files MORE has received Barack obamaBarack Hussein Obama’s Arizona election audit draws Republican tourists Biden attempts to erase Trump’s “America First” from the world stage Queen Elizabeth will have to call on her charm for Biden visit MORE2012 percentage of the white evangelical vote in Michigan and Florida, she would have won the 2016 presidential election. Biden’s victories in Michigan and Georgia came largely from surpassing Trump among the evangelicals there. These voters are at stake, and it would be a mistake to abandon them.)
The challenge of American political polarization is to build a narrative of American identity in which everyone can find a legitimate place in society. Homosexuals and religious conservatives seek a space in society where they can live out their beliefs, values ââand identities.
I am a gay rights advocate – in this case, one of those who persuaded the Supreme Court that Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination prohibits anti-Gay discrimination. I would very much like to ban the idea that homosexual sex is inferior to heterosexual sex from the margins of society. I want homosexuals not to suffer any disadvantage or humiliation because there are other people who believe in this nonsense.
The new Gallup poll shows we’re headed in that direction – indeed, the movement probably can’t be stopped. But I also believe that the margins of society should be a safe place, where those who fail to conform to majority standards, and whose views I consider disastrously flawed, can live their lives in safety. Give peace a chance.
Andrew Koppelman, John Paul Stevens Professor of Law at Northwestern University, is the author of “Gay rights versus religious freedom? Unnecessary conflict“ (Oxford University Press, 2020). Follow him on Twitter @AndrewKoppelman.