For the first time, the GOP is evenly split when it comes to support for same-sex marriage.
According to a recently released Pew Research Center report, 47 percent of Republicans now support gay marriage, while 48 percent do not. This is a significant shift from 2013, when nearly two thirds of Republicans opposed it. While the exact reasons are unclear, the American news and entertainment media have long and aggressively promoted same-sex unions.
“Slowly but surely,” Vox senior reporter German Lopez cheered, “Republicans are coming around.”
It’s not only Republicans, though. The widely reported Pew study, published June 26, revealed a liberalization of views across the board. Americans of nearly every ethnicity, age and party identification have warmed to same-sex unions since the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage two years ago today.
Since that Obergefell ruling, support for gay marriage has jumped 12 percentage points in the black community. In the past year, it has risen 10 percentage points among Baby Boomers. In both demographic groups, support is at an all-time high.
Although the majority of white evangelicals (59 percent) remain opposed to gay marriage, support is rising among Millennials and Gen Xers in this faith community.
While it is not clear what has prompted the shift in views, likely reasons include the pressure of greater societal acceptance as well as positive and frequent representation of gay couples in entertainment media.
In a 2012 interview with Meet the Press, former Vice President Joe Biden cited the role of media culture in his shifting views.
“I think Will & Grace probably did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody’s ever done so far,” he explained. “And I think—people fear that which is different. Now they’re beginning to understand.”
But according to a poll cited by Variety Senior Vice President Tim Gray, those surveyed said “the number one reason they’ve opened their mind about same-sex rights is knowing somebody who is gay.”
And when Gray interviewed Norman Lear—credited with creating the first sympathetic gay character on TV in 1971—the latter invoked several possible causes for America’s acceptance of gay marriage.
“It’s taken the entire Judeo-Christian ethic two thousand years to get to this point! So, in that sense, 40 years doesn’t seem so long,” Lear commented. “Do I think ‘All in the Family’ changed things or made a big difference? I would be some kind of fool to think my little half-hours did something more. But the show called attention to what people were thinking; it got the conversation rolling.”
While legal, the issue of gay marriage is still contentious for obvious reasons. Just today, the Supreme Court announced that it would reopen the case of Colorado baker Jack Phillips next term. Like many other Christian small business owners in the bridal business, Phillips declined to design a cake for a same-sex wedding, a conscientious choice which prompted a lawsuit and subsequent court battle.
Now, since the addition of Chief Justice Neil Gorsuch to the bench, the Supreme Court lacks clear direction. And rumors are spreading that the swing vote, Justice Anthony Kennedy, might resign. All this as the media and many religious groups historically opposed to gay marriage lean further left on the issue.
The interplay between religion and LGBT issues is not going away anytime soon, but media coverage and political developments will be fascinating to watch.