At National Journal, "Will, Grace, and a Decade of Change on Gay Rights":
Only 10 years ago, sex between two consenting males was illegal in Texas, six in 10 Americans opposed allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, including the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, and Republican strategists were actively working to enact bans on same-sex marriage on swing-state ballots because it helped their chances politically.More at the link.
Today, the president of the United States, along with half the country, supports same-sex marriage, one-third of Americans live in states that allow gay couples to be married, and the Supreme Court says the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as a legal bond only available to heterosexual couples, is unconstitutional. The Democratic Party openly embraces gay marriage in its platform, while Republican leaders desperately want to avoid an issue that's now a political loser for them.
The stunning shift in American attitudes toward gays and same-sex marriage, which culminated in a pair of Supreme Court rulings on Wednesday invalidating DOMA and effectively killing an anti-same-sex-marriage ballot initiative in California, has been fueled by the rising influence of a younger, more accepting generation. That generation has been influenced in part by an increasing willingness of gays and lesbians to publicly declare their sexual orientation and by the rise of a popular culture in which gay characters on television and in movies are commonplace.
Polling shows younger Americans strongly backing gay marriage. Two-thirds of millennials--those born after 1981--now support marriage equality, up from about half in 2003, according to data compiled by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. A majority of members of Generation X, born between 1965 and 1980, now favor gay marriage, reflecting more than a 10-point increase over the last decade. A majority of baby boomers and the Silent Generation are still opposed to same-sex marriage, but support even among those older Americans has increased by between 9 and 17 points.
Coverage of the marriage debate in the news media has tilted strongly toward support for same-sex marriage. Pew studies show about half of all stories that covered this spring's arguments before the Supreme Court focused on those who supported marriage equality, while only one in 10 stories covered the opposition.
Researchers also credit popular culture with changing American attitudes on gay marriage. Television shows like Will & Grace, which ran in prime time from 1998 to 2006, and Modern Family, which debuted in 2009, feature gay characters in lead roles. Shows as diverse as The Simpsons, Lost, The Office, and Grey's Anatomy all featured prominent gay characters or characters who came out of the closet. Celebrities like Ellen Degeneres and Rosie O'Donnell who came out gave every American a face to attach to homosexuality.
"I think Will & Grace did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody has ever done," Vice President Joe Biden said on Meet the Press in 2012, when he inadvertently got ahead of President Obama's decision to publicly support gay marriage.
Being able to attach an individual to homosexuality has played a role, too. Data experts at Facebook showed about 70 percent of users of the popular social network has a friend who publicly identifies as gay or lesbian, The Wall Street Journal reported this week. Gallup polling conducted in May showed 75 percent of respondents said they have friends, relatives, or coworkers who have told them personally that they are gay or lesbian.
"Hollywood has made gay-rights mainstream while making Christianity seem extreme," said Chris Wilson, a Republican pollster. "Try to name one positive portrayal of an evangelical Christian in a prime-time show right now. Conversely, you can likely name at least one positive portrayal of a homosexual character in each popular prime-time program. A decade of that has an impact."
PHOTO: The Advocate, "Sean Hayes I Am Who I Am."