The Messy Middle

This is promising. Researchers at Baylor working with survey results from 2010 found that 24% of evangelicals are supportive of gay civil unions – kinda. Here’s the presser from Baylor:

Tolerance toward gays and lesbians is growing within the evangelical community — long a stronghold against homosexuality — with many expressing ambivalence, according to a Baylor University study.

The emerging voice of the so-called “Messy Middle” — evangelicals who oppose homosexuality on moral grounds but support equal rights such as civil unions for gays — has strong implications for the gay marriage debate, say Baylor researchers, who presented their paper Monday at the American Sociological Association’s 108th annual meeting in New York City.

“As a moral issue, we predict that the opposition to gay civil rights will not have the same staying power as the abortion debate,” said study co-author Brandon Martinez, a sociology researcher in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences.

If I’m reading this right, then what we’re seeing is a case of exhaustion. It’s not a full conversion towards toleration for LGBT rights. It’s also not the strategic retreat that we see in the case of Joseph Bottum.

Instead, these are people in the pews who have just grown tired of the debate. They’re probably getting tired of looking like bigots, and they’re tired of seeing the media celebrate the first gay marriage in each new state that offers marriage equality. They want to move on to other things.

So they’ll accept civil unions, and possibly marriage equality, just to end the argument. It’s not an ideal victory, but it’s probably the best we can expect in this generation.

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