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The rush to accept same-sex marriage: the most radical change in American history

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Feb 27, 2014

Say what you will about the latest survey showing a growing public acceptance of same-sex marriage. Any such poll can be scrutinized for bias: in the wording of the questions, in the selection of prominent results. But it’s impossible to ignore two clear facts:

First, public attitudes are changing at an astonishing rate. According to this poll, in just 10 years’ time there has been a 20% jump in the number of Americans who are ready to accept same-sex marriage. (Compare the survey results with those from 1996, and the difference is closer to 30%.) In the course of one decade, one-fifth of the American population has acceded to a complete re-definition of society’s most fundamental institution. If it is accurate, the poll points to the most radical social change in the history of our nation.

Second, like it or not, the numbers depicted in the poll correspond to the tectonic shifts in our political landscape. In the 1990s it was politically suicidal, in most communities, for a candidate to advocate same-sex marriage. (Remember that as late as 2004, during his presidential campaign, Barack Obama opposed that cause-- which he now so heartily endorses.) Now the governor of a very conservative state, under pressure from groups as avowedly non-controversial as the National Football League, has vetoed legislation that was perceived as hostile to the gay-rights crusade.

Along with the documentary evidence of such a huge shift in public opinion, the survey by the Public Religion Research Institute offers two other interesting nuggets. The number of respondents who agreed “strongly” that same-sex marriage would violate their religious beliefs dropped in the last decade from 50 to 34%. The churches are yielding ground, or perhaps just yielding influence, or more likely both. But—and maybe here we can find a glimmer of hope—65% of the respondents believe that our American culture has “gotten off on the wrong track.” The people recognize a problem; they just don’t know what it is.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Defender - Feb. 27, 2014 10:21 PM ET USA

    Politicians and "big" money = a right kind of vote. Anything from the bishops in AZ? As a teacher, it goes to show how badly Catholics have been catechized for decades! I remember discussing this with a middle school class (no had done so before, including parents) and they had no idea what the Church taught and why. It is past time to get rid of the touchy-feeling books and crayons, way past time!

  • Posted by: jg23753479 - Feb. 27, 2014 3:07 PM ET USA

    Jesus once asked almost rhetorically if there would be any believers when he returned. As always he knew exactly what he was talking about....and now we know too.

  • Posted by: rjdobie9424 - Feb. 27, 2014 11:14 AM ET USA

    I think that the rapidity of the change indicates how "soft" and unstable this new "consensus" is - it can evaporate as quickly as it formed, given new social, economic and political conditions. We must therefore never lose hope: evil always self-destructs; it is just a matter of when.