Despite Obama’s announcement, gays like me in the Deep South can rest easy knowing we won’t be forced to get married anytime soon
There a specter stood, bearing an uncanny resemblance to President Barack Obama, telling me I should go forth and partner with someone in the bond of matrimony.
“For years you hung on to your privacy and independence with the excuse that women didn’t appeal to you, but now you have no excuse,” the specter with the big ears said. “You may now marry a man instead, provided you relocate to the right state.”
I awoke in a panic but calmed down with the knowledge that I still live in Texas, and even Gov. Rick Perry and his pack of Bible-waving pulpit buddies can’t force me, a native Texan, to move to a more liberal state. In fact, as long as I stay south of the Mason-Dixon Line, I reasoned, I probably will be safe from the risk of getting married for the rest of my years. Didn’t North Carolina voters just pass an amendment banning same-sex marriage?
Yet the day after North Carolina voters decided to make sure men and women married only each other, didn’t President Obama go on TV to say he had fully evolved on the issue and same-sex marriage ought to be legalized in funky states where voters approve it?
For a politician to take such a stand during an election year made me realize President Obama was on to something as relates to the tide of public opinion that clearly had escaped his Republican opponent, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee, who reportedly can’t be trusted with the care of the family dog and views $10,000 as something akin to mad money, has voiced support for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning same-sex marriage.
Sure enough, almost simultaneous to President Obama’s ABC News interview, Gallup released the results of its annual May poll calling acceptance of same-sex couples the “new normal” for American thought. The poll revealed that 54 percent of Americans considered same-sex relationships “morally acceptable.” It also revealed that 63 percent of Americans believe that sexual activity among consenting gay and lesbian people should be legal, which of course was accomplished when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the sodomy law in 2003.
What’s more, the poll revealed that 50 percent of Americans support legalizing same-sex marriage, but not in the Southern states where the percentage would be much lower, as was evidenced by the North Carolina vote. Regionally, support for LGBT people and their issues remains lower.
In the South, only 40 percent of people support same-sex marriage, while the figure rises to 56 percent in the East. As regards the question of morality, only 43 percent of Southerners believe that LGBT people are moral, while 62 percent of Easterners, 60 percent of Midwesterners and 58 percent of Westerners share the belief.
A CBS News/New York Times poll released about the same time revealed that about 66 percent of Americans support legal recognition for same-sex couples, with 38 percent supporting marriage equality and 24 percent preferring civil unions.
Finally, a USA Today/Gallup poll following President Obama’s announcement showed that 60 percent of Americans said his support of same-sex marriage would not affect their vote for president in November.
And as if the week hadn’t already seen more than its share of same-sex marriage issues arise, Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee ordered state agencies to start recognizing same-sex marriages in other states, even though Rhode Island only allows civil unions.
As it stands now, same-sex marriage licenses are issued in six states and the District of Columbia, two states recognize marriages by same-sex couples from other states, nine states provide the equivalent of spousal rights in the form of civil unions or domestic partnerships, and three states provide some spousal rights. More movement is likely expected in other states in all regions, except for the Deep South, according to a Human Rights Campaign chart.
It’s easy to see where this is all going as old conservatives die off and younger voters take their places. All of the polls show that it is younger people, ages 18 to 44, pushing the change in public perception of LGBT people and their rights to legal relationships. No doubt it is the same age group among LGBT people who want to get married so they can enjoy all the rights and benefits of straight couples.
The Human Rights Campaign estimates that there are 9 million LGBT people living in the U.S., and that there are 900,000 same-sex couples among them. On top of that, 22 percent of the couples are raising children. Same-sex couples apparently just aren’t content to raise dogs and cats as if they were children anymore.
In years to come, the pressure to get married is going to become immense, and I can envision being invited to cocktail parties and dinners where the hostess has by sheer coincidence invited another “nice gay man.” But thank God this is still America, and I can be gay and single if I want, especially if I stay here in the Deep South where progressive thought apparently only arrives in proportion to the number of carpet baggers moving in per annum.
David Webb has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 18, 2012.