Over the weekend, the New York legislature passed a bill allowing homosexual couples to marry in the Empire State. There have been a variety of reactions from across the political spectrum. Homosexual people are obviously overjoyed. Liberals, too, are glad. Libertarians generally support the move away from traditional marriage. The reactions from Conservatives and Evangelical Christians (often one and the same) range from outrage to resignation.
I fall somewhere in the middle of the range of conservative reactions. I am absolutely opposed to the legalization of homosexual marriage. At the same time, anyone who has been watching the polls or following the politics of marriage shouldn't be surprised by the result in New York.
Prop. 8 showed that the electorate still isn't ready to legalize same-sex marriage, even in a bastion of liberalism like California, but it's only a matter of time. The vote to legalize homosexual marriage in New York, like other victories for same-sex marriage, is indicative of a much broader, nationwide shift in support for homosexual marriage and the acceptance of homosexuality in general.
Pew Research's latest polling shows only a statistically insignificant majority of Americans opposing homosexual marriage - by a 46% - 45% margin.
However, just two years ago when Pew conducted polling on the same issue, what is now a 1-point difference was a 19-point disparity against homosexual marriage. In April 2009 54% of American adults said that they opposed homosexual marriage compared to a relatively measly 35% who wanted to rewrite the legal definition of marriage to include homosexual people.
In two short years, supporters of marriage being between one man and one woman went from holding a solid majority to struggling to stay on top in the realm of public opinion.
But when the question of homosexual marriage is placed to the side, it becomes apparent that homosexuality is a cultural norm accepted by the large majority of Americans. Fifty-eight percent of Americans say that homosexuality should be encouraged by society. Only 33% think homosexuality should be discouraged by society.
That viewpoint holds steady across virtually all ethnic, geographic, generational, educational, and theological categories. Solid majorities of men and women say that society should encourage homosexuality. Majorities of the young and middle-aged, and a plurality of those 65+ think that homosexuality should be encouraged.
Majorities in the Midwest, South, Northeast, and West share in the belief that society should encourage homosexuality. A plurality of protestants and the large majority of Catholics throw in with the pro-homosexuality side.
The only two groups identified by Pew Research as opposed to society's acceptance of homosexuality are conservative Republicans and Evangelicals. Both groups, by a wide margin, think society should discourage homosexuality. But I have to wonder whether it will only be a matter of time until these two holdout groups come to accept homosexuality like the rest of America.
Gay marriage is only legalized in a few states, so it's not fair to say that the proponents of same-sex marriage have won. It will be years until the issue of homosexual marriage is seriously considered in some states. But public opinion is steadily aligning itself behind homosexuality and same-sex marriage. And when public opinion shifts, it's usually only a matter of time until the laws change to reflect the popular viewpoint.
The decision in New York to legalize same-sex marriage won't directly impact those of us who don't live there. But it serves as a reminder that while same-sex marriage can be held off for a time, at some point it will likely be acknowledge and accepted everywhere.
You may disagree. You may think that your state would never legalize same-sex marriage. But you probably also didn't think that the 19-point lead in the polls for traditional marriage would disappear in only two years. But it has. And in two years, the polls will probably show even greater support for same-sex marriage.
That's the way societies go. It's a sometimes long, sometimes short process, but eventually moral decay sets in. This decay is evidenced in our culture by our acceptance of homosexuality and in the many other forms of immorality that have gained the approval of society.
None of that, though, negates our responsibility as Christians to stand for what's right, even in the face of overwhelming odds.