This exchange between Rod Dreher and Ta-Nehisi Coates on the basis of opposition to same-sex marriage is interesting, if only because it provides another striking example of how ones identity has an incredible impact on how one views the world and other human beings. That is, it’s pretty easy to believe that bigotry drives political action against same-sex marriage when you yourself belong to a minority group that was a regular target of disenfranchisement (or worse) for more than a century. That said, while I see where Dreher is coming from, if Pew has their numbers right, the data is firmly on Ta-Nehisi’s side:
49 percent of Americans believe that homosexuality is “morally wrong,” while only 9 percent view it as morally acceptable. 35 percent say that homosexuality isn’t a moral issue at all, and 7 percent say that it depends (and I’m not sure what that means, at all). Broken down by age, the numbers tell a familiar story: a solid majority of Americans 50 and older view homosexuality as morally wrong (about 53 percent), whereas only 38 percent of the 29 and younger crowd feels similarly. Surprisingly (to me at least) a slight majority – 51 percent – of Americans aged 30-49 view homosexuality as morally wrong. Though if disaggregated, the number of people who disapprove of homosexuality might be greater at the end of the age distribution.
If there’s any takeaway from this, it’s that we really should stop underestimating the extent to which raw prejudice drives political decisions. As Freddie remarked on Twitter recently:
It has become impolite to say so, in either direction, but never doubt many in this country hate and fear gay people.
The corollary to this, of course, is that in a country where a near-majority is morally opposed to homosexuality, it is ridiculous (and almost cruel) to expect gay people to rely exclusively on legislatures as they fight to secure their rights as American citizens. And that’s especially the case when you realize that when legislative efforts are successful, there is almost always an immediate effort to rescind or overturn the legislation. The simple fact is that if current demographic trends hold true, a majority of Americans will eventually support marriage equality. In the meantime though, I think LGBT activist groups should take a page from the Civil Rights Movement and again begin focusing their challenges on the courts. It simply doesn’t make any sense to rely on the generosity of the majority (indeed, if black people did, segregation would have lasted for a whole lot longer).