Thursday, March 15, 2012

"Laws are sand, customs are rock."

KING5 reports that opponents of gay marriage began circulating petitions today in an effort to block the state's new law and put the issue into the hands of voters in November.

“More than 120,000 signatures are needed by June 6 to get Referendum 74 on the ballot. If that happens, the law is put on hold until after the election. On the ballot in November, voters would decide either yes or no on gay marriage.... Voters may also find Initiative 1192 which, if approved, would define marriage in Washington as between only one man and one woman.”

A little over a month ago, McClatchy News Service reported that a Gallup poll in May 2011 “showed that 53 percent of Americans supported gay marriage, in a dramatic shift from 2004, when Massachusetts became the first state to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry and 59 percent of Americans favored a federal constitutional ban.  The states reflect the broader trend: Half of Marylanders support gay marriage, according to a Washington Post poll this week. According to a University of Washington poll in October, 55 percent of Washington state residents said they'd vote yes to uphold a gay marriage law.”

Public attitudes regarding gays have changed. I don’t think the legislature and the governor would have codified these cultural changes in a law recognizing gay marriage if the culture had not changed. Will taking the law to the ballot box change the culture? No. Will a public vote affirming the new law put an end to the opposition? Probably not, but the cultural change has already taken place.

Does legal challenge on social issues ever end, even when it’s clear that a major cultural change has occurred? You’d think it would but, seeing how some politicians have chosen to attack the issue of birth control, there doesn’t seem to be any accounting for bad sense.

In a Bloomberg National Poll conducted March 8-11, 77% of adults believed birth control SHOULD NOT be part of the national political debate. (20% thought it should; 3% were unsure)

To the question: "There has been recent controversy over whether education and health care facilities affiliated with religious organizations, such as the Catholic Church, should provide access to birth control through health insurance plans. Which of the following describes your view on this debate? ‘This is a matter of religious liberty ‘or ‘This is a matter of a woman's health and access to birth control’  62% said “a woman’s health” (33% said ‘religious liberty’ and 5% were unsure)

Our customs, our public attitudes, our values regarding gay marriage and birth control have changed. We are not going back. “Laws are sand, customs are rock.” That comes from a very short parable told by Mark Twain: The Gorky Incident (1906)  You’ll enjoy it.

--Mike Sato

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