Monday, March 10, 2008

Everyday life best argument for gay marriage

A really interesting analysis on the SF Gate by C W Nevius, on how homosexual marriage will become accepted as normal. Here's the full text, which I mostly agree with.

When defenders of the "sacred union of marriage" held a news conference last Tuesday after oral arguments on same-sex marriage at the state Supreme Court, they weren't facing a friendly crowd.

A small group of activists tried to drown out the comments with songs, chants and heckling. I'm sure they thought they were carrying the banner of freedom, standing up for principle and advancing the cause.

They're wrong.

At the end of the day, when the change comes to allow same-sex marriage - and it's coming, don't kid yourself - it won't be because of protests. It will be because people in this state, and across the country, are talking to gay and lesbian co-workers and neighbors, meeting same-sex couples and their kids at Little League games, and working at companies with domestic-partner health plans.

"It is the normal interaction in everyday life," said City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who is leading San Francisco's legal effort along with attorneys for 23 same-sex couples. "It is the guy at the water cooler at work, seeing them with their kids - that's what drives it home for people."

It is that familiarity driving the change in perception. Polls tell us that those born before 1940 are probably a lost cause. But those in their 40s, for example, have seen a dramatic uptick in support for same-sex marriage. And the real sea change is among the teens and twentysomethings who seem to wonder what the fuss is all about.

When our son told us he was gay, he was in high school (he's a junior in college now). I remember hugging him and saying, "Don't worry. It will be fine." What he didn't hear was my inner voice adding, "I hope."

I worried about him having a miserable time at school, harassed by narrow-minded kids and forced to withdraw into a shell. It wasn't without rough moments, of course, but overall, his problems seemed minor.

He played high school sports, was active in school events and ran for student body president. During the election, a Neanderthal jock anonymously posted an incredibly offensive and obscene comment on an Internet site. My wife and daughter saw it and so did much of the student body. Here we go, I thought.

But his friends rallied around him. They took on the jock, identified him and told him to offer an apology. When he did, my son's group quickly accepted it and moved on. He won that election.

Frankly, with a few blips, that's how it has gone. Having a gay son has been a lot less of a big deal than I ever dreamed. And among his fellow students and contemporaries, it seems to be a big shrug.

As Herrera says, the youth mind-set represents an undercurrent of change that is sometimes overlooked.

"If you look at the poll numbers in 2000 for Proposition 22 (reaffirming a 1974 law that said marriage was between a man and a woman) the support was 61 percent," he said. "But those numbers have changed dramatically. And when you look at the younger demographic, it is totally different."

A California Field Poll conducted in March found that those born in the 1970s and '80s support same-sex marriage by 51 and 58 percent, respectively.

The change in values seems to leave the same-sex opponents struggling to find a rational objection to the question posed by one of the justices: "What are the adverse consequences that could occur?"

Randy Thompson, president of the California Coalition for Children and Families, could only offer that banning same-sex marriage would "be a role model for the next generation. What dream do you want children to have, to grow up and marry a nice girl?"

Yep, that's the dream. I suppose many never guessed it would be a girl's dream, too.

The news conferences went on too long for both groups. At the end, a gentleman who represented the group Stand With Children stood at the podium, talking away as TV crews packed up their cameras and microphones.

No one was listening. He was talking to himself - with one exception.

One of the gay and lesbian activists stayed and heckled him. As the crowd dispersed, the two bickered back and forth. It's funny, because while they are arguing, real change is taking place all around them.

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