The Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling has America talking. It’s one of those events that can’t help but cause people of all persuasions and perspectives to stop and reflect — not so much on the relative merit of the Supreme Court’s opinion as a matter of constitutional jurisprudence, but rather on the fascinating, shifting, never-set-in-stone course of public opinion in our country.
In many recent conversations with friends, people have shaken their heads in wonderment at the speed with which people in the country have accepted the concept of same-sex relationships and, ultimately, same-sex marriage. It’s hard to think of any other issue, during my lifetime, where prevailing public opinion seems to have shifted more rapidly. Millennials have had a lot to do with this change. At a recent dinner party, one of our friends was relating a conversation she had with her Millennial son about sexual orientation, and he said: “Mom, to us it’s like being left-handed.” I thought that was a really interesting — and encouraging — perspective.
On another level, the issue of same-sex marriage shows that, in America, if you wait long enough and pay attention, you’ll notice that things often come full circle.
Those of us who lived through the ’60s and ’70s remember that the avant garde, liberal position in those days was that marriage was passe. Some people advocated free love and “open relationships” and argued that true commitment couldn’t really be based on a mere piece of paper, others derided marriage as a quaint throwback to the outdated notions of prior generations that could only stifle personal expression, still others pointed to the increasing divorce statistics and argued that the realities of the modern world meant that old-fashioned marriage simply could not work in the fast-paced modern world. Of course, those arguments didn’t stop most of us from getting married, anyway.
During the ’60s and ’70s who would have predicted that, decades later, the issue of the right to engage in a legal marriage, in all of its get a license from a public agency, say your vows in front of the world, traditional glory, would be at the very forefront of the social change agenda?