Gay marriage case shows society has changed

After the first of two days of arguments over gay marriage at the Supreme Court, the justices appear hesitant to make an expansive ruling on California’s Proposition 8, which prohibits gay marriage:

A cautious and conflicted Supreme Court on Tuesday took up for the first time a detailed examination of same-sex marriage, and justices wondered openly about whether it was time for the court to render a judgment...

An appeals court struck down the measure, so a decision by the Supreme Court not to weigh in would most likely lead to the resumption of same-sex marriages in California. Such marriages were authorized by the California Supreme Court before voters passed Proposition 8 in 2008. (Read the full review here. A full transcript and audio recording of today’s arguments are available here.)

At the same time, Jonathan Capehart warns that predictions of how the court will rule from oral arguments are often proved wrong.

Streets were closed in the area as thousands of demonstrators gathered outside the court:

Whatever their garb and their stance on same-sex marriage, most said they were there because they believe in family. . . The vast majority of the people outside the court were part of groups with signs indicating they support marriage equality. Several had conversations, mostly civil, with opponents of same-sex marriage. (More reporting from the scene here.)

That the crowd remained largely civil showed just how much the country has changed in only a few decades. Greg Sargent recalls growing up in Greenwich Village:

I spent my childhood on the far west side of Manhattan in the 1970s, at a time when it was little more than a gay ghetto. The open abuse of gays on the streets was a regular occurrence. The term “gay bashing” was in common use at the time. You sometimes saw young men from outside the city driving around and taunting gays with shouts of “faggot” for sport. I remember seeing young men creeping out the doors of underground gay clubs dotting the far west side early in the morning. As a kid I only dimly understood what they were hiding from and what they were looking for — refuge and acceptance. . . (More from Sargent here.)

It was just over four years ago that Californians approved Proposition 8, in the same election in which they voted for Barack Obama for president. From The Fix:

The explanation? Many largely black churches supported Prop. 8 while Hispanics, a heavily Catholic community, were more naturally inclined to side with their faith — and against gay marriage.

Another poll Tuesday confirms that public sentiment on the issue is shifting, as does growing support in surprising places:

In the testosterone-roiled world of hip-hop, macho men from Jay-Z to 50 Cent had the back of crooner Frank Ocean after he posted an open letter about his sexuality.

Even some potential Republican presidential candidates have indicated a degree of flexibility on the issue, although, as Rachel Weiner notes, “What’s clear is that none of the top-tier candidates are likely to be the first movers on supporting gay marriage. More likely, a second or third-tier GOP candidate will be the first to embrace same-sex marriage, just as former Utah governor Jon Huntsman backed civil unions in the 2012 race. (Huntsman endorsed gay marriage early this year).”

For a comprehensive history of the case so far, visit Wonkblog, and go here for more coverage from The Post.

Max Ehrenfreund is a blogger on the Financial desk and writes for Know More and Wonkblog.
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