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Younger Americans accept full humanity of gays

Opinion column

Familiarity breeds ... acceptance. That's why the battle for full equality for gays and lesbians is already won, no matter what the U.S. Supreme Court decides.

A generation of young Americans has grown up with openly gay friends, neighbors and family members, teachers, preachers and entertainment idols. They know them in all their humanity: as responsible parents, as respectable business owners, as conscientious churchgoers, as liars, as cheaters, as drunks. For voters under 35, gay and lesbian Americans are no strange breed apart; they are simply people, just like heterosexuals.

As a college teacher, I've observed that casual affirmation of the full humanity of gays and lesbians. Even on a university campus in the Deep South, where many students hail from Republican families and hew to conservative religious beliefs, homosexual students are generally accepted as peers.

Among the cohort called "millennials" by the respected Pew Research Center -- those are adults born since 1980 -- support for same-sex marriage is at 70 percent. The same percentage of millennials believes gays and lesbians can be good parents, according to Pew. Even younger conservative Christians are less resistant to gay marriage than their parents and grandparents, polls show -- with just 44 percent of them opposing those unions.

(Familiarity has also helped to change the views of some older Americans. Note the conversion of Ohio's Republican Sen. Rob Portman, who now supports gay marriage. Portman recently announced that he had shifted from the opposing view after learning that his son, Will, is gay.)

As an adult who grew up when gays and lesbians were still shunned and shamed, I'll admit to having been pleasantly surprised by the views of some of my students. One -- a young woman who described herself as conservative -- told me she is not troubled by the notion of gay marriage because "it doesn't have anything to do with me."

That principle ought to be a bedrock of conservative/libertarian philosophy, the underpinning of its suspicion of an intrusive government. But that's not the way many older conservatives see it. They have fused their religious views with their political ideology, resulting in a curious and confusing philosophy that supports government intervention in the lives of people whose values they disagree with.

In service of their muddled philosophy, they've put forth a number of arguments against gay marriage -- including the strange contention that it would undermine heterosexual marriage. There is no rational evidence anywhere to support that. Nor have I ever heard a divorced heterosexual couple argue that their marriage collapsed because the gay couple down the street got hitched.

Equally ridiculous is the notion -- actually put before the Supreme Court last week by Charles Cooper, who defended California's initiative banning same-sex unions -- that the traditional institution cannot be changed because it was designed to enforce societal norms around procreation. In other words, marriage is for those who plan on having babies. As Justice Elena Kagan pointed out, laughing, that idea would preclude marriage between men and women in late middle age.

Somewhere in those separate but connected ideas -- each is a "pro-family" defense of traditional marriage -- are clues to some of the anxiety eating at opponents of same-sex unions: They are deeply worried over the decline of marriage as an institution. That fear has led them to seek someone or something to blame.

But younger adults don't share that anxiety, either. They know that traditional marriage is already in decline. For the first time, according to the U.S. Census, heterosexual married couples do not constitute a majority of households. Instead, there are multiple other arrangements: single-parent families, never-marrieds living alone, couples living together without the bonds of matrimony, roommates without romantic connections.

There are many reasons for those changes, but gay romances had nothing to do with them. Indeed, one argument for allowing same-sex marriage is to shore up the institution, which is due for some modernizing. Young Americans seem more than willing to give that a shot.

Cynthia Tucker, winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a visiting professor at the University of Georgia. She can be reached at cynthiacynthiatucker.com.

Comments

RedEric 1 year, 5 months ago

B.S. Cynthia won the Pulitzer for B.S. this is equally B.S. Phoney preachers condemn homosexuals, but conservatives do not trust the government. Especially this government that seems to have an agenda for everything. Keep the government out of it! The same legal arguements for homosexual marriage can be applied to other variations. If you want to marry your dog, I don't care. If you want to enter a group marriage where you share the best savings plan, the best health care plan, the best retirement plan then that is detrimental to me. Gay people have the right to do whatever they want, but this government is not trustworthy enough to get involved.

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 4 months ago

"They" simply won't be happy until everybody is forced to agree with their position. Eventually churches will be taken to court to force them to perform weddings for "them". It will be like Canada where if a Pastor preaches against homosexuality, it will be considered "hate speech". Churches who will not comply will lose their status as charitable organizations for tax purposes and pastors will be jailed for non compliance.

Just wait and see. A Prophetic Utterance.

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revolutionnow 1 year, 4 months ago

So, if enough people scream loud enough, they can declare something that is wrong to be right. Righteous people are then made to seem backward,simple, and hateful if they stand up and speak otherwise. Rom. 1:22-32

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USTPC 1 year, 4 months ago

I have an idea. Take government completely out of marriage. Effective immediately, the government can only issue civil union licenses which give "equal rights" under the law of the land for federal and state laws only. Equal tax penalty, inheritance tax penalty, etc.

The marriage license will then be issued by churches according to their beliefs. If they do not believe in condoning homosexuality then they will not issue a marriage license. They cannot be forced to issue one, they cannot be charged with discrimination for not issuing one, they cannot be accused of a hate crime, etc. The same applies to businesses. If they do not condone homosexuality then they cannot be forced to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, they cannot be forced to provide health insurance or benefits for a gay couple, etc.

Unfortunately, that second part does not fit in with the true agenda of those pushing for "equality". They want to force churches and businesses to condone the homosexual lifestyle or face discrimination charges or hate crime charges.

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WTFwtf 1 year, 4 months ago

Now that most people know a gay person or 2, the anti gay pov has changed from condemning them as deviants to now warning of some sort of gay apocalypse and downfall of society bc some gays tie the knot. What kind of delusional nonsense is that? And it seems the same people who love publisizing all the cliched "thoughts and prayers" theyre sending out to whoever so much as stubs a toe, r the same ones trying to keep gays as less than equals.

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MRKIA 1 year, 4 months ago

A MAN AND A MAN OR A WOMAN AND WOMAN WILL NEVER EVER BE EQUAL TO A MAN AND WOMAN. INSTEAD OF THIS "GAY" THING BEING WHAT IT IS, A DEVIANT UNNATURAL LIFESTYLE, YOU WOULD HAVE IT APPEAR TO BE A NORMAL HEALTHY ALTERNATIVE .

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revolutionnow 1 year, 4 months ago

What is wrong with civil unions, with all legal rights as married couples ? If you don't believe in God , why is redefining an institution so important to you?

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FryarTuk 1 year, 4 months ago

I haven't heard a single legal argument against gay marriage that is convincing. Not one. With that said, I do believe there is an argument to be made about the natural/unnatural basis of homosexuality. I do not hold that such an argument should impede equal protection under the law for gay and lesbian people. I hear spokes persons vociferously express the justification of homosexuality as a natural plight in life. Well, what if someone chose to be a homosexual, would that mean their claiming a freedom of sexual expression makes him or her any less of a person? I have a lot of problems with the lesbian and gay movement proclaiming we are normal/natural because God made us like this and therefore accept us. There are a lot of geneticists that could make a case for God/biology misfiring. The best guess puts the US population at 3-5% LG out of 350 million people, that's not great evidence to prove natural occurrence. I hope the Supremes over turn DOMA but I think there's an awful lot of BS kicked around including by Justice Kagan. I think Justices Kennedy and Ginsburg have been the most thoughtful.

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WTFwtf 1 year, 4 months ago

Your god makes millions of gay people and animals each year, he must be a huge supporter of gays.

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revolutionnow 1 year, 4 months ago

If a dog falls in love with your leg, just let him finish. He can't help it , he was born that way.

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