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Is marriage equality in the United States inevitable?

Is marriage equality in the United States inevitable?

Writing in The Los Angeles Times, Harvard Professor Michael Klarman argues that the outcome of the struggle for marriage equality is already won, even as the fighting goes on.

Why is gay marriage inevitable? First, the basic insight of the gay rights movement over the last four decades has proved powerfully correct: As more gays and lesbians have come out of the closet, the social environment has become more gay friendly. In turn, as the social environment has become more hospitable, more gays and lesbians have felt free to come out of the closet. This social dynamic is powerfully reinforcing and unlikely to be reversed. ….

The number of Americans reporting that they know somebody who is openly gay tripled between 1985 and 2000, reaching 75%. One study in 2004 found that among those who reported knowing someone who is gay, 65% favored either gay marriage or civil unions, while only 35% of those who reported not knowing any gay people supported them.

A second reason that gay marriage seems inevitable is that young people so strongly support it. One study by political scientists found a gap of 44 percentage points between the oldest and youngest survey respondents in their attitudes toward gay marriage. A 2011 poll found that 70% of those age 18 to 34 supported gay marriage. It is hard to imagine a scenario in which young people’s support for gay marriage dissipates as they grow older.

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