In 2004, Ohio voters decided to put a ban on same sex marriage into the state constitution. If this poll is correct, however, that ban might not be long for this world:
The constitutional amendment defining marriage as solely between a man and a woman passed with 62 percent support.
But now, just days before the U.S. Supreme Court considers a pair of landmark gay-marriage cases, a new Saperstein Poll for The Dispatch shows that 54 percent back a proposed new amendment to repeal the 2004 measure and “allow two consenting adults to marry, regardless of their gender.”
Just 40 percent oppose the proposal, which also would allow religious institutions to determine who they will or won’t marry, and protect such institutions that refuse to perform a marriage.
To which I say, of course, good. As someone who is lives in Ohio, it’s embarrassing to me that this bit of bigotry is in the state constitution, and I’d be delighted to have it expunged, both for moral reasons and (somewhat more technically) because I think constitutions should generally be as uncluttered as possible. The tendency for states to allow genuinely dumbass things to be grafted into their constitutions via simple majorities in a popular vote strikes me as a bad policy in general.
It also reminds me that Ohio really is a middle America bellwether, which is to say, as goes Ohio, so goes the country. Ohio is neither on the cutting edge of social thought, nor is it a heel dragging reactionary state. It’s big and purple and right down the middle (see: the last several presidential elections). If Ohioans have come around on the subject of same-sex marriage, everything its opponents are doing from this point forward is a rear guard action, i.e., slowly backing themselves into Mississippi and hoping the Supreme Court never gets around to saying that not allowing same-sex couples to marry anywhere in the US is unconstitutional.
What’s happened in the decade in Ohio? The same thing that’s happened most everywhere else in the US: More gays, lesbians and bisexuals have come out and have become more vocal about who they are, meaning more people now know that someone they care about is something other than straight. Young people, who have far less of a problem with same-sex marriage, have grown into voting age. Old people, who have far more of a problem with it, are dying off. Same-sex marriage has been in the US for almost a decade now and the nation has not collapsed into a festering pit of licentiousness and sodomy (any more than it already was), meaning that most of the “slippery slope” rhetoric of the anti-same-sex marriage contingent is being seen as what it always was: hand-flapping gay panic.
This is not to say one cannot make a principled stance against same-sex marriage; one can. The problem today — and the problem for the future of those who are against same-sex marriage — is that for an increasing number of Americans who are straight, it’s becoming rather more difficult to parse the practical difference between that principled stance, and simple, garden-variety bigotry. More simply: If your principled stance condemns someone’s child, parent, relative or friend to a second-class existence, the chances are good that they’re not going to think much of your principled stance, or you for having it.
Ultimately, that’s what’s going to sand down opposition to same-sex marriage to a recondite nub: The fact is, almost no one likes to be seen as a bigot, and those who don’t mind being seen as bigots, no one else likes to be seen with. Ohio may or may not strike that 2004 amendment from its constitution this year, but it seems unlikely it won’t be stricken out. The Supreme Court may or may not rule that the federal government must recognize same-sex marriages that are legally constituted in their respective states, but it seems unlikely that DOMA will be long for this world in any event. Ohio tells me so; I’ve learned to listen to Ohio when it speaks about these things.