Gay marriage faces new opposition

Last week, I tackled some of the congressional and gubernatorial elections and the media’s oversized response to them.In the process, I unfairly passed over a genuinely important bit of electoral news — Maine’s referendum  and overturning of same-sex marriage. Gay marriage continues its losing streak against direct democracy — bringing its record to a discouraging 31 losses for 31 referendums.   Sadly enough, I’ve noticed a change in the debate over gay marriage since California also struck it down last fall, and Maine’s choice is already pouring fuel on this fire.  Some of gay marriage’s most prominent opponents are now trying to reframe a longstanding part of the debate in their favor. The conventional wisdom that same-sex marriage is part of the inexorable triumph of civil rights — hence unstoppable and inevitable — is now being challenged.Traditionally gay marriage opponents felt backed into a corner by the modern world. Confronted with such stunning social realities as the pill and the backward baseball hat, most envisioned themselves as martyrs, fighting a losing battle against secular America.But as gay marriage continues to rack up setbacks at the voting booth, these people have turned that framework on its head. With newfound courage they’re desperately trying to push gay marriage into the corner they just stepped out of.To be sure this isn’t the first time opponents have tried to reframe the debate in their favor – they’re notoriously good at subtly belittling gay people. Who hasn’t heard of the “gay agenda”— that insidious desire to be treated like everybody else? Maggie Gallagher, president of the National Organization for Marriage, said, “It really does tell you that the majority of Americans are not on board with this whole gay marriage thing.” Thing? You mean marriage? Surely that useless filler word could have been omitted.  Of course, it does make gay marriage sound like a gimmicky fad — score one for the opposition.My favorite comes from conservative blogger Rod Dreher, a man almost indistinguishable from Ned Flanders. Using good old-fashioned pseudo-intellectual jargon, he criticized gay marriage proponents for their “emotivist” outlook on marriage.Apparently, marriage is being destroyed because it’s come unhinged from its traditional moral and metaphysical backbone.  Now it’s just about how both partners feel about each other. I think they call it love? I could be wrong though.Now, unlike their ridiculous word games, conservatives do have a fairly solid framework  for their attempt to reverse the burden in the gay marriage battle. They’ve roundly won in all direct elections on the issue and still have a definite lead in the opinion polls.To push the point, Gallagher wrote a cover story for National Review — a prominent conservative magazine — in August with the subtitle, “Why gay marriage isn’t inevitable.” She frequents their ultra-popular blog with the same theme. However, as much electoral evidence as she may have, at the end of the day she’s still wrong. Here’s why: the single biggest determining factor in support for gay marriage is age.Political scientists Jeffrey Lax and Justin Phillips broke down support for gay marriage into a helpful table that organized it by age and state.  For the overall population, only eight states broke the 50 percent barrier for support. But break it down into age groups. For people in the 18-29 age bracket, 38 states passed that crucial threshold. Only Massachusetts had enough 45- to 64-year-olds that support gay marriage to crack 50.  The 65-plus crowd? In no state did support get higher than 35 percent.The correlation is pretty clear – these are generational gaps 40 points wide.This could help explain the results in Maine, a liberal state but also the oldest in the nation.Sadly, Maggie’s still partially right about the state of support for same-sex marriage, at least right now. The forces of resistance in America are still strong and forceful.There is one consoling and important fact though. Gay marriage has on its side a force as powerful as it gets — time.Still, it’s a little embarrassing to tell gay people to have patience for the umpteenth time. I’d much rather back Gallagher and company into the corner again and slap a dunce cap on them.