SAN FRANCISCO — In 1958, the Gallup Poll asked Americans whether they approved or disapproved of marriage between blacks and whites. The response was overwhelming: 94% were opposed, a sentiment that held for decades. It took nearly 40 years until a majority of those surveyed said marriage between people of different skin colors was acceptable.
By contrast, attitudes toward gays and lesbians have changed so much in just the last 10 years that, as Gallup reported last week, “half or more now agree that being gay is morally acceptable, that gay relations ought to be legal and that gay or lesbian couples should have the right to legally marry.” (In 1996, when Gallup first asked about legalizing same-sex marriage, 68% of Americans were opposed.)
Politically, President Obama felt it safe enough recently to abandon his studied ambiguity and endorse same-sex marriage amid a tough reelection campaign. Days later, a top Republican pollster, Jan van Lohuizen, issued a warning to his party, suggesting opponents were on the wrong side of the issue. Support has grown, he wrote in a strategy memo, “at an accelerated rate with no sign of slowing down.”
If, as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, the arc of the moral universe is long but bends toward justice, then it’s arguably moving faster and bending quicker in the direction of gay rights than any civil rights movement before.
That is not to say that gays and lesbians enjoy a full measure of equality, or complete legal protection. Same-sex marriage is forbidden in the vast majority of states and, in many, gays and lesbians lack the protections against job and housing discrimination afforded women, Latinos and African Americans…