I’ve famously clashed with Maggie Gallagher over the future of the traditional marriage movement. I’m a pessimist — I see defeat and marginalization for our side coming — but Maggie believes this thing is winnable, and we should fight. Yesterday’s referendum in North Carolina on gay marriage produced a walloping, landslide victory for trads — a victory even greater than polling suggested. There have been 31 statewide ballot initiatives on same-sex marriage since 1998, and proponents of SSM have lost every single time.
Every. Single. Time. This, despite being heavily outspent by their opponents.
In light of these victories, I can easily understand why Maggie gets frustrated at conservatives like me who agree with her, but who despair over our prospect for victory. I haven’t yet seen exit polling from NC, but my guess is that the anti-SSM victory was provided by lopsided margins among older voters. Among pessimistic trads, this is the source of our despair: the belief that the pro-SSM side will gain an increasing majority as older voters die off. As I have argued, SSM makes perfect sense to younger Americans because it fits so well with what they already believe about the nature of sex and marriage.
On the other hand, we could be wrong. Perhaps I am discounting the effect of prejudice, in both the bad sense (“I just can’t stand the gays” ) and the good, Burkean sense — that is, saying something like, “It might not make logical sense to oppose gay marriage, given what I believe about sex and freedom and marriage, but it just doesn’t seem right to change the institution of marriage so radically.”
The trump card the pro-SSM folks have is not demographics so much as it is that they’ve captured the elites. And the elites control the judiciary and the media. That’s how we’re going to get same-sex marriage nationally. Nevertheless, I will concede that however impossible preserving the marriage status quo looks at the moment, it may well be that what Maggie and her team are doing is a damn sight better than what philosophical pessimists among the trads (e.g., me) are not doing. So, my hat’s off to Team Maggie today.