Sorry, social conservatives: A Supreme Court defense of gay marriage won't be the next Roe v. Wade

To begin with the most obvious and decisive point, gay marriage (unlike abortion) isn’t a life-and-death issue. No one can claim that a person dies when a gay couple weds. They can’t even convincingly demonstrate that anyone is hurt in any way by a gay wedding. The harm, in the present, is purely figurative — and when projected into an imagined future in which the institution of marriage eventually collapses as a result of its judicial redefinition to include homosexual couples, purely speculative. That’s a pretty significant difference, wouldn’t you say?

Then there’s the fact that gay marriage has been on an upward trajectory in public opinion, with no significant interruptions or backlashes, for as long as it’s been measured by pollsters. This is reflected in the incredibly rapid surge in states that have legalized same-sex marriage in the 11 years since Massachusetts became the first state to permit the practice. Some of this has been the result of lower court rulings, but in other places it has taken place democratically. It seems certain that one way or another gay marriage will eventually be legal in all 50 states, whether or not the Supreme Court makes it so this June.

That deprives same-sex marriage opponents of the most potent talking point of the anti-abortion movement, which is that in 1973 the high court undemocratically overruled the will of the people by summarily overturning abortion regulations in all 50 states.

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