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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Gays at the Turning Point

An excerpt from a very thoughtful article by scholar and journalist Jonathan Rauch, who is one of us; your Head Trucker hopes you will go read the whole thing.  It's important not merely to fight hard, but to fight fair and fight smart as well, ya know guys?  To live in a civilized manner, no matter how scorned.  To be the adult in the room.
In 2010 the most important gay rights story that you probably never read came from Gallup: “Americans’ support for the moral acceptability of gay and lesbian relations crossed the symbolic 50% threshold in 2010. At the same time, the percentage calling these relations ‘morally wrong’ dropped to 43%, the lowest in Gallup’s decade-long trend.”

Since—well, since forever, the American majority regarded homosexuality as immoral, and the only question was whether to tolerate or repress it. In 2008, however, the lines converged, at 48% on each side. Today, same-sex relations are deemed morally acceptable by a margin of 52% to 43%. The “moral values” argument is on our side.

This is a watershed in gay Americans’ relations with our country. The belief that homosexuality is morally wrong undergirds all the other problems that homosexuals face. When the foundation of moral disapproval crumbles, so, in time, must all the superstructures of discrimination and stigma. To a majority of the public, the “morally deviant” shoe will be on the antigay foot.

So let’s pinch ourselves and say it: American homosexuals and our allies are entering a new and unprecedented phase. For the first time, we are emerging into majority status. Obviously, this is grounds for celebration, but it comes with a challenge. Majority status changes the political calculus in a fundamental way, one that requires us to move, and move quickly, to a majority mind-set. . . .

Majority support does not necessarily make the “all accelerator, no brakes” approach ineffective, but it does change the cost-benefit calculation. Pushing on every front at once is no longer cost-free. Far from it: To the public, a shrill, aggressive majority appears bullying and menacing, not plucky and righteous. Worst of all, it looks oppressive. . . .

FOR ANY minority rights movement, the turn to majority status is very easy to miss. With little or no warning, tactics that make sense for an insurgent minority stop working. Militant activists find themselves at sea, their messages no longer resonating, their styles antiquated. In the African-American civil rights movement, the activist vanguard lost its way in the thickets of Black Power and “by any means necessary.” Movement feminism likewise missed the turn, dead-ended at the minority-minded Equal Rights Amendment, and faded away.

The gay rights movement will have to show unusual foresight to be an exception. Our every instinct will be to press our advantage, exploit our momentum, and drive the other side into the sea. The straight world has ginned up any and every shabby excuse to hurt gay people, with organized religion often leading the way. And now we’re supposed to be tolerant?

Well, yes. As gays become a majority, the burden of toleration—and it is a burden—shifts to us. This is the most difficult adjustment a minority rights movement can make. Our opponents are betting we will fail to make it. In fact, that is now pretty much their entire strategy.

Gay Americans and our allies are not ready to think of ourselves as a majority. And we are not fully there yet, certainly not solidly. But the benefits and, yes, burdens of majority status are descending with wonderful speed. We will miss the turn if we don’t start braking now.
Andrew Sullivan, commenting on this article:
There is a dynamic here. The more we advance the arguments for equality, the more intolerable inequality becomes, and the more unfathomable opposition seems. And so, even as solid, substantive change is obviously occurring (national opinion polls now reveal over 50 percent support for marriage equality and far higher levels for non-discrimination more generally), we feel as if we are losing terribly, and so adopt a posture and rhetoric more extreme than necessary and potentially counter-productive. At this stage in a civil rights movement, we have to keep the conviction behind change, while allowing the losers some time to save face and come around.

One simple word of advice: when you are tempted to use the word "hate", substitute "fear" or "bias". It's usually more true and dials down the temperature a notch - where the rational advantage held by the case for gay equality still holds.


Mareczku said...

Very informative. Excellent. Thanks for sharing this.

Russ Manley said...


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