By the time you read this, Amendment One, which strengthens the ban on same-sex marriage and erodes state support of civil unions, will have passed in North Carolina — and likely by a fairly hefty margin.
How to account for the amendment’s popularity?
In fact, if you actually are showing up at the polls with a firm stance on the issue of same-sex marriage, the odds recently have been: you’re against it.
As it becomes the social norm to support gay rights, there’s a bunker of hostility among the few hold-outs. It’s like unironic sweater vests. Nobody cool would be caught dead in one. So if that’s what you choose to sport, it’s because you are willing to battle any foe to do it, uphill both ways, through a hailstorm of taunts. You do not care what people say. You know that you are right. You are the sort of fellow who lives to vote Yes or No on referenda.
Recently, the Public Religion and Research Institute found that 54 percent of those who strongly oppose same-sex marriage consider it a critical issue, while just 14 percent of those who strongly favor it consider it critical. No wonder Amendment One was leading at the polls by double digits.
And no wonder President Obama, on this issue, is not evolving so much as stagnating. Even Joe Biden hopped briskly out of the primordial soup and is now cavorting about on dry land. His comment on same-sex marriage was certainly a gaffe, given the president’s position, but at least he can get rid of those gills. It is nice to be able to breathe.
Eventually, through sheer attrition, tolerance seems likely to prevail. But it will take a while. In spite of all the demographic trends broadening support for same-sex marriage and pushing its opponents into the grave, there is still a sturdy cluster of opponents waving signs and saying, “Waiting for me to die, eh? Fine! Until then, you can pass same-sex marriage over my dead body!” Or something else similarly logical.
Still, as a believer in evolution, I am having difficulty reconciling my understanding of evolution with the president’s behavior on this particular question. And Biden’s recent comments have made what was already a pretty tenuous stance even more tenuous.
If evolution worked the way President Obama seems to think it does, amoebas would suddenly transform into camels — just as soon as the election was over. “Sorry,” early relatives of Homo Erectus would say to one another. “I’d really love to get out of this tree, but I am not yet ready to be human. Wait until after the election.”
Why wait to be human?
Well, look at these numbers. If this would be the president’s principled stance (and many signs point to yes), taking it isn’t likely to endear him to anyone who doesn’t already support him. That is the trouble with principled stances. They are stands you take because you believe they are right, not because you think they will be popular. Like sweater vests. And we know how he feels about those.