As fundamentalist Christians beat the drum for a Federal Marriage Amendment that would eliminate any chance for gay couples to be seen by secular law as families, a new poll shows that rank-and-file support for marriage equality is growing. But some troubling news also emerges: Many Americans — 32 percent of those polled — just don’t care.
The results of a USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll released Oct. 7 show that the nation is now split almost evenly on the issue: 48 percent of Americans polled say allowing legal marriage for queer couples “will change our society for the worse,” but 50 percent believe marriage equality will have either a neutral or beneficial effect on the US. The anti-gay backlash that appeared after last summer’s watershed pro-gay advances — the Supreme Court overturn of sodomy laws, the advent of legal gay marriage in Canada, the election of an openly gay Episcopal bishop — has eased. In other words, America’s “squishy middle” seems to be realizing that legal civil marriages between members of the same gender will have no effect on heterosexual unions. Also, issues such as the US occupation of Iraq and the troubled national economy are seen as being much more frightening and dangerous than the notion of gay and lesbian couples pledging lifelong commitments before justices of the peace.
Another scary thing to consider is that many heterosexuals simply don’t care about gay marriage — these self-involved souls see the matter as having nothing to do with them. This bothers me greatly, because no one is equal until everyone is. In my estimation, any human who claims to be pro-equality and doesn’t care about marriage equality for all Americans needs to re-think that claim.
As marriage is gradually seen as more of a social contract between two adults and less as a religiously-sanctioned commitment, increasing numbers of Americans are coming around to the idea choosing a life partner is an issue best left to each individual — whether that individual is straight or gay.
The poll revealed a generational split that has been found in other surveys. Some 67 percent of those aged 18 to 29 — and 53 percent of those ages 30 to 49 — say gay unions would have no harmful effect or might make society better compared to older groups of Americans who remain firmly against the idea.
Regular religious observance proved a reliable factor in gauging gay opposition. A solid 67 percent of weekly churchgoers said that “allowing two people of the same sex to legally marry will change our society for the worse.” Of those who attend less regularly (at least once a month), this figure tumbled to 51 percent.
Of those who seldom attend church or temple services, 47 percent say allowing same-sex marriages would have “no effect” on society; 14 percent say it would change society for the better. Among those who never go to church, nearly three in four — 72 percent — say there would be no detrimental impact on society.
The same survey found a statistical three-way tie as to whether gay and lesbian couples should have legal parity with married couples. Some 35 percent oppose such a national policy, 32 percent approve and 32 percent shrug it off, saying the legal status of gay unions “doesn’t matter” to them.
I address this plea to justice-seeking equality-minded people, particularly heterosexual ones (naturally, we assume GLBT folks are taking action to secure their now-nonexistent legal equality):
Contact your lawmakers in Congress and in your state house. Tell them you believe in equality for all Americans in all arenas, including marriage. Write them, call them, fax them, visit them face-to-face. No doubt legislators pay little attention to the pleas of queerfolk — we are second-class constituents, after all, to too many pols in office. But heterosexuals — pols will listen to you.
There is a benefit to you, my opposite-gender-attracted friends: America can not be what it promises until it treats all its citizens equally. Do you want to live in a country that does not live up to its promise of equality for all? Because right now, that is where you live. Some of your fellow citizens have never been equal a day in their lives. Too many have died never knowing what it is like to be equal under civil law. Is that OK with you?
There is no compromising equality: Domestic partnerships, civil unions… they are pretty euphemisms for Jim Crow designed to make queers feel as if they are at least getting something and to make liberal heterosexuals feel good about themselves. (And if the Federal Marriage Amendment wins passage, even these immoral less-than-marriage substitutes will be illegal.)
In 1954, the US Supreme Court struck down the notion of “separate but equal” in its landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling. “Separate but equal” is not equal, not for humans categorized as African-American, and not for GLBT Americans, either. Either you believe in equality or you don’t. If you do, and you really love your country, stand up for equality.
Please: Contact your legislators in the House and Senate. Write them letters. Visit their offices and make a face-to-face plea for justice and equality. And by all means, contact the White House: Dubya Bush is all for amending the Constitution; tell him he is wrong! When you reach lawmakers, tell them you demand equality for all Americans in civil marriage (which is a separate matter from church marriage). Tell them you do not support the hateful and anti-American Federal Marriage Amendment. And tell them equality can not be compromised.
You can phone US representatives and senators at the Congressional Switchboard: 202-224-3121.
You can phone the White House Comment Line at: 202-456-1111.
Do you believe in equality for all or not? If so, take action for equality.