It’s no surprise that young adults increasingly support gay marriage and think it’s just fine for two moms to have kids. Young people grew up with gay friends. They may have a gay stepbrother or a lesbian minister.
But the part that’s bothered me all along in the debate over marriage equality is why older people are assumed to be against same sex unions. When old people were young people they too had gay friends and most likely a gay relative, teacher or neighbor, but they either didn’t know it, refused to accept it or were part of keeping it a secret.
But since then have come decades of changes in societal thinking and real life experiences. It baffles me how you can get to be 60, 70, 80 or whatever age one is considered an old person and not revise some of your thinking, too. One advantage to living a long life is to have participated in a great span of human history and to evolve with it.
It’s called wisdom, one of the promised perks of old age. And if you’re anywhere near old you’ve experienced some pretty amazing advances in gay equality. There are now six openly gay and lesbian members in the House of Representatives and the first open homosexual in the U.S. Senate. The wedding pages of the New York Times and other papers routinely include same sex nuptials. Who didn’t weep watching Brokeback Mountain? Who doesn’t love Ellen?
Yet, the gay lifestyle has an image of being flat-out resisted by the older generation.
But look at this. As the Supreme Court took on same sex marriage, opinion polls reported that approval of gay marriage has increased over the last 10 years in all generations. Including boomers and older.
There are several reasons why opponents switched their thinking, say researchers for the Pew opinion poll. First big reason is personal connection. You have friends or family who are gay and lesbian, not strangers whose lifestyle you don’t get but people you love and respect.
The second reason people gave for reconsidering their opposition was they became more aware, studied the issue and grew older.
There it is. Pollsters didn’t say which age group attributed their change of heart on getting older, but the hope is that the longer we live the more we learn. The more kinds of people we get to know. Differences disappear. The heart opens. They become us.
Anyone who is 65 today and defends his prejudice on what the church and Readers Digest told him as a kid gave up on life as a learning process.
As for me, I prefer to think of my brain still expanding, not shrinking to fit what most people thought in the 1950s in rural Pennsylvania.
Don’t lump me in your stuck generation.
As an older person I know many things can threaten my happy heterosexual home. But it’s not the two fathers living down the street.
And the claim that every child needs a mother and a father? Well, biologically speaking that’s true. But in my experience it seems that what children need once they’re in the world are parents who love them and love each other. Who will keep them safe, make sure they eat their greens, go to their basketball games and teach them to be kind and brave and think for themselves.
To worry about same sex marriage redefining family doesn’t wash either. We long-time straights redefine family when we remarry, become step parents and give the grandchildren four sets of grandparents.
If you have been on this earth a while and have been paying attention, it seems pretty obvious that opposite sex couples are no better at loving and parenting than same sex couples. Or visa-versa.