In 1996 Bill Clinton signed into law the Defense of Marriage Act. That is an indication of just how little favor there was for same-sex marriage only 21 years ago. After that, I think most people in the L.G.B.T. community assumed gay marriage was a lost cause.
And then through the 2000s there were states that legalized gay marriage in various ways. Iowa, oddly, was one of the first.
Then, right around 2011, when New York legalized gay marriage, this really took off. And one of the reasons it did — and one of the real political lessons of it — was that the L.G.B.T. community really developed the language that they ended up using to argue for this.
They did this by talking about gay marriage in terms of fundamentally conservative values: fidelity, family planning, and all that sort of stuff. This reframed the whole gay crusade. It ended up being a powerful engine for gay rights because for a long time when you said to Americans “gay rights,” they flashed on the gay pride parade, on men in leather and on “dykes on bikes.” They flashed on people who wanted validation for what those other Americans saw as a transgressive lifestyle.
The great thing about marriage equality and same-sex marriage is it was saying, “let us enter into this very conservative arrangement, please let us emulate you. More of our values are in common with yours than in conflict.”
It took a while for L.G.B.T. people to realize what a winning argument gay marriage was.
What does that tipping point reveal about America? And how can we learn something about Australia from this?
It reveals two things about America. And I think these things were boldly underscored by the last election.
First, too much change, too quickly, frightens people — and I don’t think this is true just of Americans. It certainly frightens Americans — the sense that the fundamental paradigm of the country as they know it is being challenged or changed scares them….