Friday, November 14, 2008

Why Continue Fighting AGAINST Gay Equality In The U.S.?

World War II officially ended with the Japanese surrender on Sept. 2, 1945. But some Japanese soldiers stationed in isolated regions either didn't receive or didn't believe the news of their side's defeat. These men held out for years, refusing to give up on a lost cause.

Likewise, though it is clear that the long and painful struggle for gay equality in this country is at last nearing its end, increasingly marginalized anti-gay culture warriors fight on.

Though the passage of anti-gay ballot initiatives in several states on Nov. 4 proved that opponents of gay rights remain vigorous and numerous enough to win a few more battles, public-opinion data prove that they have already lost the war. I've cited the relevant polls in several past columns and editorials, but I will do so again because many people still just don't seem to get it.

A Pew Research Center poll conducted in May showed, as such polls almost always do these days, that a majority of Americans under the age of 30 are in favor of legalizing gay marriage. And the silver lining of the California gay-marriage ban's passage was that voters in that age group opposed the measure by an overwhelming 22 percent, according to CNN's exit poll. As I wrote last week, without the votes of Californians over the age of 65, who favored the ban by 22 percent, it probably wouldn't have passed.

Regardless of these facts, powerful figures in the Republican Party refuse to admit defeat in their hard-fought struggle against gay rights.

Bob Vander Plaats, who ran unsuccessfully for Iowa lieutenant governor in 2006 and later served as former Gov. Mike Huckabee's campaign head in the state, this week added his name to the list of Iowa Republicans who remain in denial over where the country is headed.

"Republicans rev up their base by declaring marriage to be between one man and one woman, only to walk away from the issue when it poses a threat to personal ambition. The result is no trust … no vote," he wrote in the Des Moines Register. "If Republicans are to win again, they must authentically embrace their core principles and effectively communicate a compelling message of bold-color conservatism that inspires faith, family, and freedom."

Of course, gay marriage was not the only issue Vander Plaats addressed in his guest column, but it's obviously something that he feels strongly about. And I don't expect that to change. It's absolutely his right to believe what he wants about the moral status of gays and lesbians. However, pretending that opposition to gay marriage will continue to be a winning campaign strategy in the future is nothing short of delusional.

But I won't deny social conservatives such as Vander Plaats their due. Ultimately, it turns out that they were absolutely right about at least one thing. Positive portrayals of gays and lesbians in the mainstream media have had an enormous effect on young people's attitudes regarding homosexualiy. Most Americans who have grown up over the last 30 years haven't been indoctrinated with the anti-gay propaganda that used to saturate our society.

Some might argue that it's still possible to turn back the clock, but that hardly seems realistic. Homophobic attitudes can only be maintained through ignorance and fear. Now, most young people understand that gays and lesbians aren't scary, that we're ordinary people who just want to be treated equally.

And we will be. Given demographic reality, time is on our side.

So why do social conservatives continue wasting so much time and money in their doomed struggle on this waning front of the culture war?

Like the Japanese holdouts after World War II, some people are unaware that they have lost. This is likely the case with many ordinary voters. Others, such as political leaders who are well aware of public-opinion trends, must be in denial.

Nationwide, CNN's exit-poll data indicate that the Republican Party lost the 2008 presidential election by an astounding 34 percent among voters under the age of 30. If the party wants to win in the future, it needs to attract more of these people. And continuing to oppose gay rights is not a good strategy for doing so.

(Cross-posted at the DI's main site, where the headline unfortunately got scrambled.)

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