Opponents of same-sex marriage will march en masse outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday as justices hear arguments on two cases.
Even if traditional marriage activists win the court battles, though, it looks more and more like they have already lost the war.
Public opinion in America has undergone such a rapid sea change that opponents of same-sex marriage increasingly look like they soon will hold the fringe position. A growing chorus of conservatives argue that what only a few years ago was a fundamental plank of the GOP platform opposing gay marriage has now became a major liability.
In 10 years or so, no one is going to be talking about this, conservative Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin predicted recently on a panel of Republicans supporting same-sex marriage.
I would suggest the debate has already taken place in America. We cannot be at war with America on issues of fairness, on issues of equality.
Look no further than Florida to see how remarkably the political landscape has shifted.
Barely four years ago, nearly 62 percent of Florida voters approved a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions. Last week, a poll released by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling found just 23 percent of Florida voters oppose legal recognition of both gay marriages and civil unions, and 75 percent support either gay marriage or civil unions. Among Republicans, 53 percent support civil unions, and 21 percent support legal same-sex marriage.
Another poll released last Thursday by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute found that 54 percent of Florida voters favor allowing same-sex couples to marry legally and 41 percent oppose it.
Most troubling for Republicans eager to broaden the partys appeal after President Barack Obamas comfortable re-election victory are generational attitudes. A national Washington Post-ABC News poll released last week found that more than 8 in 10 voters under 30 favor legalizing same-sex marriage.
Its a staggering number that doesnt surprise Matt Hoopfer, president of the College Republicans of Florida State University.
Most younger people are very much okay with equal rights for same-sex couples. Most, even if they support traditional marriage, dont think its the governments place to tell two individuals who they should marry and who they shouldnt, said Hoopfer, lamenting that perceptions about the GOPs position on gay rights hurts the party with young voters.
Its a driving issue for sure. This past election the Republican Party was painted as intolerant to same sex-marriage, Hoopfer said. What weve focused on since the election is saying you can be a Republican and you can believe in same-sex marriage.
Thats a new approach in Florida. In 2006, the Florida GOP spent $150,000 to help put the gay marriage ban on the ballot and when that failed, spent another $150,000 to ensure it made it on the ballot in 2008. The prime backer was then-Florida Senate President Tom Lee, R-Brandon, a candidate for chief financial officer. The move was widely seen as an effort by Lee to drive up turnout and support among social conservatives.
Sen. Lee last week called the gay marriage issue a distraction and became defensive when asked if he worried the GOP could be turning off young voters by opposing it.