How Fast Is Public Opinion on Same Sex Marriage Changing?

How Fast Is Public Opinion on Same Sex Marriage Changing? October 12, 2010

Yesterday was both Columbus Day and National Coming Out Day, so I saw many tweets linking the two as embarrassing elements of American society, one past and one present.  I’m actually not much of a doomsayer on the latter.  While the recent violence and bullying of GLBT (and suspected GLBT) persons in high schools and colleges is abhorrent, it is minor in comparison to other social evolutions through which America has gone.

The Civil War was, of course, notoriously bloody.  Prohibition was violent in its own way, and the Civil Rights Movement precipitated violent protests and often lawlessness across the country.  By contrast, Women’s Suffrage was a peaceful movement, and so has been the steady march toward gay rights in America.

Conventional wisdom has been that the acceptance by the American populace of gay rights, like marriage, has been steadily marching ahead at 1% per year.  But recent data indicates that the pace might be quickening.  This summer, the Colorado Independent published this graph which shows three decades of polling on same sex marriage (HT: Keith DeRose).  The country is now basically 50-50 on gay marriage:

Last week, Andrew Sullivan posted a graph of Pew polling showing a similar trend, this time by generation:

The uptick in acceptance of same sex marriage is interesting, especially as we approach mid-term elections in which the “family values” crowd doesn’t seem to be getting much traction on this issue.  Cutting taxes, sure; but we’re just not hearing much about a marriage amendment to the Constitution.  I’m assuming that’s because politicians know how to read polls better than they do just about anything else.

My question, as usual, is how will the church respond? Obviously, we’re split on the issue now, just as the country is.  But as the country continues its steady march toward full inclusion of GLBT persons in all aspects and institutions of America, the church will follow suit (with, of course, vocal exceptions).  Some will holler that we’re allowing culture to set the theological agenda for the church, that we’re kowtowing to popular opinion, etc.  But it seems far more likely to me that God is revealing something very important to us about the imago dei: The beauty of the Trinity is the eternal relationality of the Godhead, and in that spirit, the church should be fostering loving, respectful, mature, committed relationships between human beings, be they straight or gay.

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