I'm really not getting why everyone in the LGBTQ blogosphere is laughing at Maggie Gallagher's "Eight Reasons Why Gay Marriage Is Not Inevitable." I know it's fun to mock someone like her because she's officially against us, but, seriously, she has a point that's worth discussing instead of just mocking and then wondering why we can't seem to win these ballot initiatives.
Sure, her reasons same-sex marriage isn't inevitable aren't all convincing. They range from so-obvious-I-didn't-know-there-was-even-disagreement-here ("Nothing is inevitable") to factually questionable ("Demography could be destiny"), but her main point, that the country isn't locked in a inevitable drift to a liberal utopia, isn't up for debate.
She mentions women's reproductive freedom as an example of an issue that isn't dead (with Stupak-Pitts passing a few weeks ago, I don't know anyone who thinks that women's autonomy is a given right now), and there are a few other issues that show that she's right: workers' rights, which are more precarious now than they were in the unionized 60's and 70's; income distribution, since the rich-poor gap has been expanding in the last few decades and we've lost the courage to tax the top bracket at above 90% like it was taxed under Eisenhower; animal rights, as more animals are suffering in ways that were unimaginable 100 years ago; and torture, as the civilized world's taboo on that was peeled back this past decade at such an alarming rate that America is now the world's leader in torture apologetics.
Even gay well-being has gone up and down in waves.
Even gay rights have fallen backwards. There were plenty of queer-friendly times in history that were followed by incredible repression, like the famous push for gay rights in late 19th/early 20th century Germany that came to a sudden halt at the debut of the Third Reich. Hellenistic Greece, which, under Christian rule, wasn't so open about the sodomy anymore. And native cultures that were open to the queers in the Americas were destroyed by the advanced and enlightened European colonizers, sometimes specifically because of homophobia.
Most importantly, though, we should acknowledge the destructiveness of accepting anything we want as inevitable. How many No on 8 organizers have I heard from who complained, just after the 2008 election with all these queer Californians marching in the street, "Where were these people when they could have actually helped?" We all know where they were: they were staying home under the assumption that their help didn't matter, same-sex marriage was inevitable, especially in one of the most socially liberal states in the US.
Well, we lost, and we lost hard. Can we blame even a majority of that on apathy brought on by the assumption of inevitability? No, not at all; there were lots of other problems going on in that election. But did it help? Do you really think it helped us to have those early polls out telling us that we were so far ahead that even if we got pounded in the campaign, Californians would pull through for us? I'm falling on the no side there too.
And it's not going to help us to cling to that idea anymore. There is some comfort in thinking that you're on the "right side of history," but that comfort is mostly the sweet slumber of self-delusion. Our rights aren't guaranteed, they can be taken away, Americans are particularly mercurial when it comes to the value of people who are different from them, and we just don't know what's coming our way in the next few decades that could dramatically change the playing field (a war on US soil? a technological development that helps spread conservative ideology? a new gay epidemic that makes us lose focus on marriage?).
The usual reason advanced to prove the inevitability of same-sex marriage, when any sort of reason is advanced, is that young people tend to be more gay friendly than the rest of the population. But Maggie raises some important questions about that logic: are these same young people always going to hold these views, even as their lives change (did single straight people support same-sex marriage a lot more than married straight people)? There's a 22-point spread when it comes to young people's support of same-sex marriage, but shifting a 11 percentage points isn't impossible. And just because this coming generation is OK with same-sex marriage doesn't mean that the following generation will be. We just ended 40 years of conservative rule in the US, what's to say that another wave won't happen again?
If we continue on our current trajectory, then I agree: same-sex marriage will happen all over the Us in the next 50 years. But there's no guarantee that we will stay on the current trajectory, and staying on that trajectory requires money, work, and luck.