One question I’ve been asked repeatedly is whether the issue of same sex marriage is inevitably shifting toward cultural acceptance. Yes, it is.
As Kevin Drum pointed out last May in Washington Monthly, the American populace is shifting on same sex issues at the rate of one percent per year (full PDF of the report from the American Enterprise Institute here).
In a less civilized manner, Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly argued this out last week on The Daily Show
. Papa Bear was arguing that the U.S. is a “center-right country” because, as he said, there are certain traditions that this country has always stood on (he, of course, was implying that things like the free market economy and heterosexual marriage are those traditions). Stewart vehemently interrupted O’Reilly and countered, No, the tradition of this country is an ever-expanding list of personal liberties.
It does seem that the trajectory of the United States is toward more personal freedoms, and GLBT rights seem to be the next on the list after women’s rights and civil rights. I understand why some conservatives stand against these liberties, and I’m sure the “slippery slope” argument will be invoked repeatedly during the forthcoming blogalogue. The progressive counter to that is this: those same arguments were used to deny women the right to vote and to deny civil rights to persons of color.
I do tend to think that our society is shifting toward full and equal rights for same sex couples — I think once a society is moving in a libertarian trajectory, there is no going back (this holds only in a democracy, not under a dictatorship).
But this is no reason to avoid a robust dialogue about the issues surrounding same sex marriage. In fact, as we approach a cultural tipping point on this issue, it’s all the more important that we have serious, thoughtful, respectful discussions. For, if we don’t, an issue like this does have the potential to provoke nasty, even violent rifts in our democracy.