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Tim Myers: Same-sex marriage is an inevitability

Myers' Musings

Posted: June 5, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: June 5, 2011 1:55 a.m.
 

The word came out over social networks on Thursday, primarily from a young iconoclast at Saugus High School, Ryan Gitana King, who I hope will still remember me when he wins the election for junior senator from the state of California in 20 years time.

“Hey graduating SHS Seniors who signed an ally pledge during your time at SHS! All allies will be wearing their yellow ribbons on their gowns tonight at graduation. (This is all cleared with administration.) There will be extras at COC. See Emily Coffin :).”

Further communication with Ryan revealed that more than 800 students at Saugus High School had signed the so-called ally pledge over the last two years, a version of which I share below:

“I promise not to be violent to my friends, my family, my lover or to anyone else. I promise to be an ally to myself, my sisters, my brothers and to anyone under attack. I promise to stand up for people and build my community.”

The signer of the ally pledge, while making a bold statement against the more well-known problems of bullying and racism, also states they will support their gay and lesbian classmates and stand up for them against homophobia and bullying, and they wear a yellow ribbon to publicly display their commitment.

I think it no coincidence that this same week, Gallup released its latest tracking poll on American attitudes toward gay marriage, showing, for first time, a solid majority favoring this civil right at 53 percent, up from 27 percent when Gallup first asked the question in 1996, right after a Republican Congress and a Democratic president enacted the anti-gay marriage Defense of Marriage Act.

This substantial increase in support over a 15-year period stands especially amazing when compared with public attitudes toward interracial marriage, first legalized in California in 1948 with action from the California Supreme Court.

During that year, 90 percent of Americans stood against interracial marriage, and that number would only fall to 72 percent nearly 20 years on in 1967, when the Supreme Court would strike down all state anti-miscegenation laws in the Loving decision. 

It would take nearly another quarter-century when a minority would oppose interracial marriage in 1991. Now, 20 years on, while some bigots and tragically brain-addled folks might still oppose interracial marriage, they know enough to keep their mouths shut since a mathematical certainty exists they possess a relative or friend involved in an interracial marriage.

So, why the astounding and very fast change in attitude for same-sex marriage, or SSM?

Demographers always related the issue of attitudes to the calendar, since the younger a person, the more likely in favor of SSM. The latest poll confirms that view, with nearly 70 percent of those in the 18-to-34 demographic favoring SSM. In fact, the only demographic not favoring SSM relates to the 55-and-older folks, with the 35-to-54 demographic finding themselves slightly in favor.

But the change in view does not exclusively result from some sinister Soylent Green-type phenomena that sees the steady dying off of those opposed. Since 2004, when overall acceptance stood at 42 percent, acceptance of SSM gained many percentage points in every age demographic, including the most conservative 55 and older.

I count myself among the minds changed. In 1996, at the age of 36, I was solidly against SSM, but grudgingly in favor of civil unions. In 2000, I voted against Proposition 22, the so-called “Knight Initiative,” not because of some change of mind, but because it seemed mean and bigoted. And in 2008, my Nebraska bride and I cast votes against Proposition 8, because we now could not see all the fuss dusted up by SSM. 

But what about the Saugus graduation? King, a student leader who is openly gay, asked all those with yellow ribbons to wear them, and also stated they would have extra to pass out.

In typical high school student fashion, about 50 of the 200 implied signatories to the ally pledge could find their yellow ribbons to wear on their robes, but Emily Coffin brought 150 yellow ribbons and ran out before passing them out to everyone who wanted them.

And I look forward to the day when no one wears a red ribbon to a graduation, because those against same-sex marriage constitute such a rump they know enough to keep their mouths shut.

Tim Myers is a Valencia resident. “Myers’ Musings” runs Sundays in The Signal.

 

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