An American change of heart on gay marriage

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Huffington Post Gay Voices

In just the last decade, millions of Americans, from former Vice President Dick Cheney to President Barack Obama, have changed their positions on the rights of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people. On same-sex marriage in particular, there’s been a shift of opinion so dramatic that it leaves political historians grasping for comparisons. As the Supreme Court prepares to hear two historic cases that could shape the future of same-sex marriage in America, some activists privately worry that the country and its highest court still aren’t ready. They point to the millions of Americans who would still deny gays the right to the marry, the 32 states where same-sex marriage is still banned, and the fear of a backlash like the one that followed Roe v. Wade and froze progress in the pro-choice movement for decades.

Many gay rights activists attribute the unexpected wave of support not just to the understanding that comes from personal relationships, but also to the work they did both before and after the passage of California’s Prop 8 to frame the conversation. Close observers say that that framing got more effective over the years, as activists traded a technical legal argument — about the 1,100 or so benefits of marriage that gay people should not be excluded from — for a more emotional approach focusing on love and commitment and American values. Michael Bronski, the author of “A Queer History of the United States”¬†and a Harvard professor, notes that sentimental arguments have become increasingly prevalent, and successful, in social movements over the last century. Evan Wolfson, the director of the gay rights group Freedom To Marry, said, “We made the question of gay rights not just what do you feel about gay people but what kind of person are you? What are your values? What kind of country do you want to live in?”

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