In the wake of several high profile setbacks, a recent Politico article casts doubt on one of the gay marriage movement’s core assumptions: namely, that public acceptance of same-sex partnerships is an inevitability. I hesitate to describe just about anything as “inevitable,” but I still think gay marriage advocates have the better argument here.* The best (only?) point opponents raise in Politico is that young people’s attitudes change as they age – witness the persistent divide over abortion or the fiscal conservatism of older voters. While I don’t doubt this is true, it’s pretty easy to identify a plausible connection between aging and conservative attitudes on taxes or abortion. Balancing a checkbook and raising a family might give you second thoughts about the IRS or Planned Parenthood, but what does getting older have to do with your views on same-sex marriage? Nothing we know about older voters’ attitudes suggests a causal relationship between aging and anti-gay sentiment.
Maggie Gallagher offers a few more reasons to be skeptical of the movement’s inevitability claims here. Most of this amounts to precautionary arguments against assuming the inevitability of anything, but she also suggests that changing demographics ultimately favor same-sex marriage opponents because socially-conservative families have more children. I can’t speak to the accuracy of this assumption, but I think it’s worth noting that younger social conservatives’ attitudes on gay marriage seem to be changing pretty dramatically. So unless the aging process magically incites anti-gay hysteria, celebrating Alabama’s official recognition of same-sex couples sometime in the mid-2020s seems like a pretty distinct possibility.
*For the record, I think individual states have the right to determine the status of gay couples. If Virginia holds a referendum on same-sex marriage, I’ll vote in favor, but I emphatically disagree with efforts to recognize same-sex marriage through the Supreme Court.