Making headlines this week was the news that New Jersey just became the 14th state to allow same-sex marriage. This sort of thing hits home for me, especially as New Jersey happens to be where I was raised. This is normally the segway at which I begin to discuss my own position on gay marriage, but I feel no need to do that here. It strikes me as much more intellectually satisfying to point out that gay marriage is a societal inevitability, and that in the future we shall see more states enact similar resolutions.
To show why, I’m going to go off in a few different directions, and then tie everything back together. First, let us begin by defining exactly what laws are. Laws are merely codified social tenants backed by government force. Social norms may be the unwritten rules of society, but written laws are the other side of the same coin. If cultural norms change, the laws will eventually change as well. This is why, for example, trial by combat is no longer a legally valid method of settling disputes.
The second thing we must realize is that two big cultural shifts have precipitated the now common acceptance of the idea of same-sex marriage. The first has been the evolution of marriage from an economic contract for the purpose of raising children to a public declaration of mutual love and affection. The second has been the gradual acceptance of public homosexuality. The combination of these two things means that people of non-straight sexual orientations are more free at this time to publicly express their love for each other, and this is reflected in societal views on same-sex marriage.
The third thing to understand is that now we have legal recognition of same-sex marriage in some states, so the pressure on lawmakers in other states to enact similar legislation will increase. Lobbying groups for this sort of thing are going to step up their efforts, and public demand is going to rise as well.
Tie all this together and what do you get? First, the cultural shift leads to a legal change in a only a few places initially. Then, this leads to a build-up in pressure on other states to legally recognize gay marriage as well. Eventually, the tipping point is reached, and same-sex marriage becomes accepted in short order across many states.
We have reached the tipping point at which the push for same-sex marriage is now insurmountable, and I believe we will soon see legal recognition of same-sex marriage become official in many more states. Do I think that same-sex marriage will become recognized in every state? Perhaps. States like Alabama and Texas will probably hold out for many years yet. But I would not be surprised to see same-sex marriage become legally recognized in a majority of states by 2020.