In 2008, California passed Proposition 8, which defined marriage as an institution between one man and one woman in the state’s constitution. Close to 53 percent of Californians supported the measure, which is the same percentage of Americans that voted for Obama for his historic win.
Since California is a solidly blue state, it’s pretty safe to assume that if they voted overwhelmingly to keep marriage between a man and a woman, the majority of Americans as a whole probably didn’t support gay marriage.
Over four years later, Prop 8 has reached the Supreme Court, where nine justices will decide if California has a right to define marriage in its constitution, opening up the question of whether or not any state has the right to define marriage as its residents see fit.
Surprisingly, there seems to have been a huge shift in the public perception of gay marriage, and support for the homosexual community in general has come from some very unlikely sources.
These are some of the people we never expected to see backing away from the gay marriage debate:
Senator Rob Portman is a Republican with national ambition, and was on the short list to be Mitt Romney’s VP pick last summer. The conservative politician came out in favor of gay marriage earlier this month, partly (mostly?) because his own son is gay.
Former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Supreme Court in February supporting gay marriage. The brief included signatures of dozens of GOP supporters, including top advisors to George W. Bush, members of Congress, and former governors.
The Mormons, who took a lot of credit for Prop 8’s initial passing because of the large amount of money they poured into the campaign, seem to have changed their tune as well. While they still don’t advocate for gay marriage, they have been making strides in reaching out to the gay community. Church spokesman Michael Purdy said, “Being committed to marriage between a man and a woman does not mean that we do not love and care for all of God's children.” Even BYU, where 99 percent of the student body is LDS, is friendly to gay students.
Pope Francis, the new head of the Roman Catholic Church, argued in 2010 for the church in Argentina to support civil unions of same-sex couples.
The American public supports same-sex marriage by over 50 percent. The tides have changed over the past few years, with the estimated flip of popular opinion happening around 2011. What’s caused the shift? I’d say it’s because we’re human, and we get invested in other people’s stories. As our friends and family members have come out of the closet, it has put names and faces on something that used to be ambiguous.
Whether or not you’re in favor of changing the legal definition of marriage, it’s hard not to be compassionate to your loved ones and let them lead their own lives as they see fit. After all, we’re all just people.
Are you in favor of gay marriage?
Image via Fibonacci Blue/Flickr