Sunday, June 11, 2006

Is there a growing tolerance and acceptance of gay and lesbian relationships?

Virginia voters will decide the fate of a broadly worded amendment to the Virginia Constitution on the ballot this fall to prohibit same sex marriage as well as prohibit any relationship regardless of sexual orientation approximating marriage. There is an active VOTE NO VIRGINIA campaign to oppose it. Although the odds are probably in favor of its passage, that is not a forgone conclusion. Not too many years ago it would have been a forgone conclusion. A shift in attitudes is taking place and legislation such as this is a reaction to those shifts.

Last week the United States Senate defeated for a second time an amendment to the U.S. Constitution outlawing same sex marriage. Any constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds (67) majority. In 2004 forty-eight Senators voted in favor of the amendment. Last week forty-nine followed suit. According to Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), a proponent of the amendment, that’s progress.

Actually, it was progress but maybe not what Senator Brownback had in mind. With the power held by social conservatives at the national level in the White House, Congress, Supreme Court and as well as at the local and state levels not to mention the media, the fact that they have added only one vote to their block – not even a simple majority – indicates something else is at work. What is at work is that there is a growing tolerance and acceptance of gay men and lesbians. And what follows tolerance and acceptance is an understanding of needs and rights.

Stephen Chapman explains it this way:

The hard Right thinks the citizenry absolutely detests "activist
judges," but when the Supreme Court issued a stunning decision overturning state
laws against sodomy in 2003, the public barely blinked.

In fact, 74 percent said they favored striking down such statutes.
If Brownback and his allies think the public is with them on gay issues, where
is the federal anti-sodomy amendment?

The greatest consolation for them is that same-sex marriage is still unpopular. But more than half of Americans endorse either gay marriage or civil unions, which are marriages in all but name. Two states (Vermont and Connecticut) have legalized civil unions, without attracting 1 percent of the attention that has gone to Massachusetts. Once considered a radical step, this has taken on the look of a soothing, sensible compromise.

A more telling sign is the huge shift in opinion on discrimination.
In 1977, when Gallup asked if homosexuals should have "equal rights in terms of
job opportunities," 56 percent said yes and 33 percent no. Nowadays, opposition
to this form of gay rights has only slightly broader appeal than the Socialist
Workers Party. This year, 89 percent of Americans favored equal employment
rights, with only 9 percent disagreeing.

That evolution suggests attitudes on gay marriage are likely to
grow more positive, not less. The battle for tolerance has largely been won
among young people, who will be guiding policy in the not-too-distant future.
"They're much, much, much more accepting" of gay rights than their elders, says
American Enterprise Institute polling expert Karlyn Bowman.

Read his column here.

No comments: