A New Generation and the End of DOMA

It’s all about the Supreme Court lately! Recent decisions handed down dealt with hot topics like affirmative action, the Voting Rights Act, and marriage equality. It was the Supreme Court equivalent of a much anticipated season finale.

Especially amongst young adults, no other case in recent memory paralleled the kind of attention received by United States v. Windsor. On June 26, Justice Kennedy joined the four liberal-leaning justices in overturning and rendering unconstitutional the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Same-sex marriage has traditionally been one of the most divisive and controversial issues in politics, but this decision had my Facebook newsfeed exploding in approval. Obviously, my personal Facebook is not a proper sampling of the American population, but polls have shown that public opinion on gay marriage has shifted dramatically in the last decade.

<> on March 27, 2013 in Washington, DC.

For the first time in history, more people support than oppose legalizing same-sex marriage. Many lawmakers, including several Republicans, have followed suit and announced public support in favor of marriage equality. President Clinton, who signed DOMA in 1996, penned his own opposition to the law. So what brought on this national change of heart?

One possibility lies with the younger generation: compared to the older populations, “Millennials,” people born after 1980, show overwhelming support for marriage equality. The rise of social media may also play a role in shaping the views of young adults, giving way to “trendy” opinions.

And while it’s true that certain views have the tendency to become fad-like (I still remember the explosion of Livestrong bracelets), let’s give ourselves a bit more credit. The defeat of DOMA in the Supreme Court is a significant win for the LGBT community. Maybe it’s accurate that what the “me me me generation” really supports is Facebook likes. But maybe, setting cynicism aside, we are also celebrating an important step for progress and equality.

What do you think about the rulings? Leave us a comment!

-Serena

Serena Yin graduated with a degree in English from Johns Hopkins University in 2013. She is joining the Washington Reading Corps to promote literacy in local schools. A New England native, she loves ballet, beaches, and hamburgers. When she’s not on the hunt for the nearest Starbucks, she’s working on realizing her lifelong dream of meeting J.K. Rowling.

Vive le Mariage Gay?

We knew the French were a nation of liberal bourgeoisie bon-vivants, but now this?

I jest. But in case you missed it, last week France became the 9th European country, and 14th globally, to legalize gay marriage.

Now, I’m not here to argue the relative merits of the pro- and anti- sides in the debate. Or even discuss the debate. This isn’t a blog about that. Pick your favorite liberal or conservative blog and troll the comments for some great one-sided views on the issue. But then that can’t be helped. It’s a divisive topic at best, and daily protests during the week leading up to the vote in France attest to that. I only lead off with it because the story got me thinking tangentially. Thinking about paradigm shifts and changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes, and above all, our perceptions and how we view the world.

mariage gai

Attitudes do change. Issues that at one time were stigmatized, or even taboo, eventually are allowed into the light of day, and, through greater exposure, then pass through the stages of tolerance, understanding, and acceptance. It’s a trend that repeats itself at various times and in various places. The Civil Rights and Women’s Suffrage Movements here in the United States are two examples, and are examples that have been repeated, or indeed were preceded, in various regions all over the world. It’s not so very long ago those movements happened and yet, those of us born into a world shaped by them can hardly imagine the previous status quo. We’re even shocked when we hear of other countries that haven’t reached that point, that practice racial segregation or don’t allow women to vote.

Perception has changed so much on these issues for us that, while undercurrents of non-tolerance may run here and there, the prevailing sentiment is one of acceptance. But all it takes is a little time. Change the f-stop on the lens, lengthen the exposure. It’ll all turn out alright.
And so acceptance is gained. And yet we can’t seem to parlay that shift in how we view one social issue to a shift that encompasses all social issues.

I was cycling through town a couple days ago, and as I slowed approaching a stop sign a homeless man called out to me. I was focused though. In a hurry to get somewhere and didn’t want the awkwardness of a forced conversation. I had my headphones in as well, so I used them as an excuse to ignore him. But he called out again, and again, and the third time, when I looked up he smiled and said “Nice bike.” He didn’t want anything, only to share a moment. I was the one who had imprinted certain pre-conceived notions and experiences onto the situation.

And I thought to myself, What happened to your own tolerance? Sure you get burned once in a while when you put yourself out there, as not everyone lives up to the ideals we may have as human beings, but you can’t take that scar and apply it across an entire social strata. I’m still working on it. It’s a sometimes difficult lesson. Awakening and tolerance and knowing that everybody deep down struggles with the same issues.

Everyone’s different, yet everyone’s the same.

Thoughts on a napkin, or better yet, in the comments thread of this post.

-David

David Wilson graduated from the University of Texas in 2006. Since then he has gone wherever the wind blows him, living in Europe, China, and the States, and traveling extensively throughout the rest of the world. When he’s not on the move, you can find him obsessing over latte art, playing piano, or trying to bleach his hair in the sunshine. Follow him on Twitter.