The incredibly swift public opinion battle on same-sex marriage appears to be over -- even moreso than you might think.
A new Pew Research Center survey released this week reinforced what we already know: That a clear and growing majority of Americans support same-sex marriage.
But here's something perhaps even more telling: Even those who don't support same-sex marriage (mainly, religious conservatives) also think it's inevitable same-sex marriage will soon be legal across America.
When you consider the overwhelming odds for those who oppose same-sex marriage, this seems reasonable. A recap:
- Support for legalizing gay marriage is at the nation's highest in 20 years
- Same-sex marriage is legal in 36 states and the District of Columbia
- The federal government, including the military, by and large recognizes same sex couples
- The president of the United States has embraced same-sex marriage
- A Supreme Court decision expected any day now could expand gay marriage nationwide but almost certainly wouldn't do the opposite
The empathy factor also plays in gay marriage supporters' favor. A majority of Americans now think gays are born that way, according to a recent Gallup Poll. That helps supporters shift the debate to a civil rights issue.
Perhaps most importantly, this week's Pew survey found that nine in 10 Americans know someone who is gay. And simply knowing someone who's gay is a major indicator when it comes to whether people opposed to gay marriage will change their minds, according to the 14 percent of Americans (a large number for such a partisan entrenched issue) who told Pew in 2013 that they changed their mind in support of gay marriage.
"Once Americans became comfortable with gays on a personal level, it became easier to reconcile their opinions toward gays, and shift on gay marriage," Glen Bolger of the Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies told our own Chris Cillizza last month.
In the face of all this, social conservatives seem to have moved on to other priorities. A scan of 10 prominent social conservative groups' websites finds only two have mentions of the same-sex marriage debate, and only one on its home page. The upcoming Supreme Court decision on Obamacare subsidies dominates the conservative base's digital ink.
Meanwhile, conservative supporters of same-sex marriage are arguably doing more than opponents. Alex Roarty in National Journal attended one such event recently:
"Even foes such as the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins acknowledge that Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry and its allies this year are better organized in this fight than his side."
Republicans, whose official platform is that marriage is between a man and a woman, aren't blasting gay marriage the way they do the president's nuclear deal with Iran or Hillary Clinton's e-mail scandal. GOP presidential candidates like Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker say they support constitutional amendments that let states define marriage as between one man and one woman, but also say they'd attend or have attended a gay friend or relative's wedding.
All this may not change the minds of social conservatives. But it seems to have convinced them to at least give up the fight.