Watching this debate unfold over the past decade, it is hard to imagine another social issue that has changed as much as gay marriage. As many observers have noted, it was just in 2004 when Bush (with the help of then closeted gay RNC chair, Ken Mehlman) made gay marriage the wedge issue that would make sure social conservatives got to the polls. It worked, and Bush narrowly won reelection. There were some attempts at the same thing in 08 and 12, but clearly, that argument has fallen by the wayside.
Not only is the national scene shifting, with over half the country in support of gay marriage, but the polling is even more eye-popping when you look at younger people. Their numbers, across political and religious lines, are much higher for gay marriage than people over 50.
And some of this is the reason why the argument against gay marriage is losing ground, and the opponents know it. After all, it was not that long ago that opponents said that our civilization would crumble and our culture would fall apart if we allowed gays to marry. Several states have passed gay marriage, and the sky has not fallen. Our younger people know very well that gay people are just as good, bad and indifferent as straight people. They know kids who have gay parents, and their parents are just as messed up as anyone else.
The biggest problem for the traditional defense, I think, is that they are defending an institution that has largely never been what they thought. Marriage has always evolved and changed, as ideas about the family changed, and as economic pressures changed. Marriage was originally about property, but that no longer is even a requirement. It was about family too, but family, like marriage has changed tremendously. We all know divorced, cobbled, single, unmarried families, and often will put all of those varied versions of the family up against the traditional model.
This isn't just about hypocrisy, but it is incredibly hard to shout piously for traditional marriage when so many people are divorced or live in highly dysfunctional families. And I think most of the American people reflect this basic reality. They know full well that their relationships all need work, and who are they to tell others how to live.