Gay marriage’s inevitability hasn’t been evident to the voters in 31 states who have written into their constitutions that marriage is between a man and a woman. The latest is North Carolina, where 61 percent of voters embraced the traditional definition of marriage in a referendum. North Carolina isn’t Mississippi. President Obama won North Carolina in 2008, and Democrats are holding their convention there. Nation-wide, no referendum simply upholding traditional marriage has ever lost, and even in Maine, voters in 2009 reversed a gay-marriage law passed by the legislature.
These state constitutional provisions constitute irreducible facts on the ground. Reversing them by democratic means will be the work of a generation. For the foreseeable future, the country will be largely traditional on marriage, with enclaves of same-sex unions as boutique blue-state institutions lacking full legitimacy. Rather than waiting for the tide of history to do its inexorable work, advocates of gay marriage really want the Supreme Court to impose their new definition of marriage. Inevitability’s full name is Anthony McLeod Kennedy, the swing-vote justice who is perfectly capable of remaking marriage by judicial fiat.