It seems like every day, there’s a new online database of people who are publicly opposed to gays — but each time it happens, the list is shorter and shorter. The latest one is in Arkansas, and it lists the folks who signed a petition to keep foster kids in orphanages rather than placing them with gay parents. (The petition was eventually voted into law, and is now being contested by the ACLU.)
Or, wait. Yikes? People were scared (or at least, pretending to be) a few months ago about the Prop 8 map; the theory was that gays would use it to exact revenge, but the threat never actually materialized. Not even once. There wasn’t one single instance of any cartographic retribution. So is it fair to say that these maps and lists have no effect?
Not at all. In fact, having conversations about gay friends and family has a profound effect: in the last month, national support for gay couples has jumped nine percentage points. You read that right — in just one single month, the percentage of Americans willing to support their gay friends and family to get married jumped from 33% to 42%. Good grief. And the advances just keep coming.
What’s hastening along this shift in public opinion? Conversations. The more people talk about gay couples, the more comfortable they are with them. And it doesn’t even seem to matter what people say — lord knows, there’ve been plenty of anti-gay conversations lately — every conversation keeps nudging public opinion towards equality. So the anti-gay-couple groups like the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) are standing in quicksand: the more they keep struggling, the faster they sink. Next month, the California Supreme Court will rule on Prop 8 — and no matter the outcome, it’ll nudge public opinion yet again.
So gay couples should celebrate every time NOM releases a new ad; anything that keeps gay couples in the spotlight is a good thing. NOM’s brand new ad, featuring Miss California, is a great example. Within hours, it was thoroughly debunked; but more importantly, it’s offensive to even the most casual observer. “No Offense” is the galling, passive-aggressive title. No offense? Really? “No offense, we just want to throw you out of your dying partner’s hospital room,” which happened just a few days ago in Oregon. These people aren’t opposed to gay marriage — they’re opposed to gay people. Who’s going to get behind a cruel, desperate message like that? Keep struggling, NOM.
But let’s bring this back to the maps and the lists.
All evidence seems to indicate that they don’t lead to violence — or even targeting of any kind. The Arkansas site, with the names and addresses, is a great test. But an even better resource are the maps on Florida-based marriage equality site Marriage4All. They don’t just show you where conversations are needed most; they actually provide resources for having those conversations. There’s even a document titled “How to Act on the Maps,” full of good advice for maintaining momentum behind marriage-equality conversations.
Those conversations used to be challenging because they were awkward and controversial. But increasingly, in this post-tipping-point world, the challenge is finding anyone who doesn’t already agree with you.