Yes, it has to do with that equal sign meme.
Today’s Time cover story and powerful image “How Gay Marriage Won” struck a chord for a nation awaiting two enormous Supreme Court rulings that have the potential to overturn California’s Proposition 8 and DOMA with hearings earlier this week. David von Drehle highlights some of the reasons why, whether or not our government has decided to acknowledge same-sex marriage nationwide, gay marriage is as good as legal. That is not to say that homophobia and intolerance are not still rampant in this country (gay rights are more than just marriage rights, of course), but that legal recognition of equality is an essential and inevitable step to reversing those bigoted opinions. We couldn’t help but to optimistically agree with Drehle and compile our own list of signs that same-sex marriage is winning.
1. Every Popular Opinion Poll
According to polls, 53% of Americans now support gay marriage. And, shockingly, as many as 33% claim to have once held the opposite belief. This statistic is indicative of the wildly shifting views from unexpected outliers like blue-collar workers, Southerners, and older voters, who have all moved at a steady rate towards approval since 2004. Even those 65 and older, who tend to be the vastly disapproving demographic, have had an increased approval rating from 16% in 2004 to 37% today, according to NBC and Wall Street Journal polls. Maybe it's a bit morbid, but the reality is that this demographic won't be with us for that much longer. And while some groups like senior citizens, Republicans, and rural voters continue to oppose gay marriage, these significant leaps in approval tell us that popular opinion is not factionalized or stagnant—this is very much an accelerating evolution of public belief.
2. Our Most Powerful Politicians Support It
The world basically peed their pants with excitement when Obama told us he supported same sex marriage last year, in what had been his “evolution” towards the stance. Recently, Hillary Clinton and former President Bill, who was the one to first sign DOMA back in 1996, have recalled their initial opposition to gay marriage. Even those who were recently defending traditional marriage are rethinking their opinions. We can count in: Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, the first of his kind, Democrat Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Jon Tester of Montana, and Mark Warner of Virginia. Let’s not forget the 80 prominent GOP members who penned that amicus brief to the Supreme Court. For a public who doesn’t like to think for themselves, when our most powerful political leaders are fighting for the legalization of gay marriage, it sort of heralds in a whole new era. When and if our rights come back to the states, these political alliances will be key in persuading undecided voters.
3. Celebrities Stop Instagramming Pictures Of Themselves to Tweet About Gay Marriage And Write Supreme Court Briefs
Earlier this month, Ellen Degeneres wrote a brief to the Supreme Court urging them to overturn Prop 8. This week, we’ve been hit with a ton of fervor for equality from a lot of seemingly random celebrities, whose endorsements will prove to be influential. When it’s in the culture, it’s in our thoughts. Celebrities from Will Ferrell to Courtney Love to Seth MacFarlane took to their Twitter feeds to write about the upcoming rulings. Jose Canseco said it succinctly and pointedly (if not accidentally humorously): “ungay and gay how are they not equal humans”.
4. Advertisers No Longer Solely Acknowledge a Husband and Wife as Family
Last year, Expedia released a heartwarming, long-form commercial about “Finding Your Understanding” which followed the “journey” of a traditional father coming to terms with his lesbian daughter. Eventually he realized it was the “natural order of things”. Kindle, Toyota, and JC Penney among many others have followed suit. When advertisers take the risk of possibly isolating some of their potential customers by showing any strong political opinion, it means there are enough chips stacked on the side of what they are supporting to accommodate that risk. Not to mention, increasing representations of real life couples in advertising destigmatizes gay-friendly images and portrayals across the board, with potential for growth in representation.
5. Normal Representations of Same-Sex Couples Are All Over TV and People Love It
Gay people on TV today, for the most part, no longer reflect the predominant, hackneyed tropes of flamboyance or butchness that ruled the ‘90s. In fact, Modern Family, which has a plot that includes a loving gay couple raising their adopted daughter, has through-the-roof ratings (the highest rated scripted show for ages 18-49) and even definitely-not-gay-friendly Mitt Romney claims to be hooked. Over the past few years, people have been tuning into shows like Glee, Pretty Little Liars, Nurse Jackie, Happy Endings, and The L Word which offer complicated, realistic, sympathetic, and dare I say—normal—takes on navigating gay life. Which, you know, involves exactly the same activities as navigating straight life does, except you happen to love somebody of the same sex.
6. That Red Equal Sign That Took Over Your Facebook Feed
The ubiquity of the Human Rights Campaign’s red square with an equal sign representing marriage equality (and its countless, amazing spin-offs) speaks volumes about youth culture. It clogged my newsfeed on Tuesday, and became clear proof that not only is it normal to support gay marriage, but it’s hip. While 65% of the young vote is in full support of same-sex marriage, and they’re mostly the ones Facebooking, the deluge of red and pink profile pictures means something more about cultural thought and the power of suggestion. The image signified that gay marriage rights have not only come into our public discourse, but speaking out about equality is now a mainstream, cool, perhaps even expected part of our socialization patterns.
7. This Has Inspired Some of the World’s Greatest Memes
We all know nothing is true unless the internet explodes about it. The internet has been combusting over same-sex marriage these past few weeks, much to hilarious, moving, and inspirational effect. I have not watched the clip of Sophia Petrillo schooling Blanche about same-sex marriage on Golden Girls enough times yet.
8. “Swing Vote” Justice Anthony Kennedy Has A Gay-Friendly Track Record
Justice Anthony Kennedy, the supposed “swing vote” of the U.S. Supreme Court has been known for making gay-friendly decisions ever since 1996 with Romer v. Evans when he struck down a ballot measure in Colorado that would have barred homosexuals from being included in antidiscrimination statutes. He made the decision back then based on our equal protection laws (that’s our handy 14th Amendment). Everybody is saying Justice Kennedy will vote in favor of striking down DOMA. We got a hint at the ruling when he spoke of the 40,000 children residing in California with gay parents. “They want their parents to have full recognition and full status,” Kennedy said. “The voice of those children is important in this case, don’t you think?” Though some say he wants to get rid of DOMA solely because it infringes on states’ rights, I’ll take the benefit of the doubt and his vote to boot.
9. Even Rush Limbaugh Can’t Deny It
When garrulous scourge of the earth Rush Limbaugh concedes the fight of those who oppose gay marriage is over, you know it’s over. On Wednesday, Rush Limbaugh claimed the genie could not be put back in the bottle. "I don't care what this court does with this particular ruling, Proposition 8. I think the inertia is clearly moving in the direction that there is going to be gay marriage at some point nationwide."
10. The Inertia of Belief
According to exit polls last November, 83% of voters believe that same-sex marriage will be legal nationwide in the next 5 to 10 years. Whether all 83% of those votes or Rush Limbaugh want gay marriage to be legalized is beside the point. Sometimes, a firm belief something will happen regardless of our opinion about it is also a consent to that belief. That’s the inertia we’ve been hearing about, and it’s the evolutionary momentum of human rights that we can bet on. This isn’t just justice; it's history.