Roughly six years ago, when my now fiancé and I had just moved in together, the United States Presidential election of 2008 made history. Just under a year earlier, when we began dating, I recall him saying that he didn’t believe that Barack Obama stood a chance of winning the election. He told me, though he hoped otherwise, that he didn’t believe that we would see a black U.S. president in our lifetime.
Ten months later it came to pass.
In the same respect, another remark my partner made, amid our many deep conversations during candlelight dinners and Sunday mornings-in, was that he didn’t wholly believe that we would see an America with full recognition and legal marriage equality among gay and lesbian couples. I argued otherwise. At that point of exchange, one state legally allowed and acknowledged same-sex couple’s right to marry. DOMA was however still constitutional – the federal government could legally overlook many of those rights.
Today, six years later, nineteen states legally allow and acknowledge same-sex couple’s right to marry, and DOMA has been eradicated.
Same-sex marriage is easily one of the most controversial and bare-knuckled fights any group of any respective community has ever fought. In our lifetime, and stretching back into the history of American rights, the gay marriage campaign is quickly becoming as divisive and as landmark as those of the abolition of slavery and women’s rights. While many did concur with my partner in his vision of a limited America within the span of our lives, and while many still do believe as such, it can be said that the shift in favor of a tolerant America is certainly in occurrence – right before our very eyes.
Just over ten years ago there were no U.S. states that recognized marriage as anything but between a man and a woman. In the span of only one decade, that number has gone from zero to 19. In each state where gay marriage is still illegal, there are lawsuits pending to challenge the fundamental ethics of the bans enacted. In these past ten years, something has changed. Something came about in the broad scope of politics and the voice of the people. There are certainly many factors at play, and ultimately there is an avalanche of causes leading to the change in overall American attitude. Yet what I believe is simpler: one event largely began to create transformation. Just beyond the past decade, the millennials began to vote. The millennials began to join the workforce. And the millenials were far more unafraid to come out as openly gay and lesbian than those generations before them.
The statistics are simple and speak for themselves. Since about 2004 there has been a rapid shift in the public opinion across America. The popular opinion that gay marriage should be illegal in America has sharply dropped in the last ten years from 55% down to below 36%, and falling. Contrastingly, the opinion that it should be legal has risen from 41% in 2004 to over 58% today. And climbing.
Where is this opinion coming from? Well, according to statistics, the majority of the rise is attributed to America’s youth. The millennials contribute a staggering 81% in favor of the legality of gay marriage, as opposed to the 44% of those who are in favor over the age 65.
Do politics play a part? Certainly. As does religion of course. And yet regardless of conservatism and strict dogmatic ties, the youth is still bringing forth the turn of the tide. The generations over the years have been very clearly changing in their position and stance on the idea that all couples should be granted the fundamental and constitutional right to marry in this, a free country of tolerance and diversity.
Many have no faith in the millennial generation. They believe that integrity and responsibility is veritably non-existent in the course of their futures. Yet it cannot be argued that they are certainly the generation of change, be it for the better or the worse. In the capacity of this particular argument, for those who have gay family and gay friends; for those who have been too afraid to come out of the closet in the past and have done so recently because of the upswing of acceptance nationwide; for those people, it is certainly for the better.
I for one believe that my country, the United States, will legalize and recognize gay marriages in each of its 50 states in my lifetime.