December 10, 2012

The Supreme Court announced Friday that it will take on two cases involving same-sex marriage. This is definitely cause for celebration. Gay couples looking for the respect and stability that comes with marriage might finally get equal protection under the law. But as Adam Nagourney of the New York Times reported yesterday,  “[A]mid the celebration, there were signs of concern over how the Supreme Court might rule.”

Don Romesburg, an associate professor of women and gender studies at California’s Sonoma State University who is gay, told Nagourney, “It is frightening to have our basic rights as citizens in the hands of just nine people, when four or five of them are deeply ambivalent, at best, about our very existence.”

Yet, over the years, we have seen the overall views of the American people move at breakneck speed from “deeply ambivalent” to growing acceptance.

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public life released a series of charts last month that bear this out.

Changing Attitudes
(Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life)

Attitudes are changing. Between 2001 and 2012, support for same-sex marriage rose 13 percent, from 35 percent to 48 percent. The number of those opposed dropped 14 percent, from 57 percent in 2001 to 43 percent in 2012.

Changing Attitudes by Generation
(Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life)

On “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” yesterday, George Will said, “Quite literally, the opposition to gay marriage is dying.” That’s because those most opposed to marriage equality are older Americans, the “Silent Generation.” But as you see in the chart above, support for same-sex marriage has been increasing among every generation  of Americans. The Millennials and Generation X’ers are leading the way.  But a report from the centrist think tank Third Way convincingly challenges the conventional wisdom espoused by Will.

“One often-cited reason for the change is that younger voters with more accepting views are replacing older voters in the population,” Lanae Erickson of Third Way and Gregory B. Lewis of Georgia State University write. “The more important reason, though, is that Americans in every demographic, political, and religious group across the country are changing their minds on this issue.”

Now we wait to see who among the justices of the Supreme Court will change their minds on this issue to give gay and lesbian couples the recognition and protection their families deserve under the Constitution.

Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.