News & Politics

Gay Marriage Is Supported by a Majority of the Public

One of the most exciting things about the delightful first wave of gay weddings across California was how much the nation took it in stride.
The moment California became the second state to start marrying gay couples, America's wedding album gained wonderfully memorable snapshots.

Who could not be touched by seeing wispy-haired Del Martin, 87, cutting a three-tiered wedding cake from her wheelchair, helped by her 83-year-old bride, Phyllis Lyon?

But the picture I'll most treasure is of a toddler in a pressed shirt and oversized tie, his dark hair wetted down and parted perfectly, gleefully squirming in one dad's arms while his other dad took a break from their special day to tell CNN how their family will be stronger because of the legal protections of marriage.

Oddly, from a distance the most exciting thing about the delightful first wave of gay weddings across California was how much the nation took it in stride. CNN flashed supportive headlines, such as, "CALIFORNIA GOLD BAND RUSH," "HAPPY COUPLES" and "JUST MARRIED," but then quickly returned to coverage of flooded rivers.

And unlike in Massachusetts, where then-Gov. Mitt Romney was the skunk at the garden party, California's officials embraced the gay breakthrough. The supportive politicians' diversity underscores the breadth of support for the newlyweds: Mayors Gavin Newsom of San Francisco (white) and Ron Dellums of Oakland (African American) performed ceremonies. And Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles (Latino) will, too.

With gay couples thoroughly woven into their state's fabric, heterosexual Californians are familiar with gay parents, meaning they know marriage will protect the little girl in their carpool, not just her lesbian moms: One-quarter of the Golden State's 108,000 gay couples have kids, the Williams Institute estimates, and one in 10 adopted children in the state has a gay parent.

California's florists, bakers, wedding planners, innkeepers and jewelers are celebrating. Macy's ran a full-page ad: "First comes love. Then comes marriage. ... Let Macy's Wedding Gift & Registry help you start your new life together."

The Williams Institute projects that over the first three years, gay couples will spend $683.6 million on California weddings and generate $63.8 million in government revenues. As Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sweetly summed it up, "You know, I'm wishing everyone good luck with their marriages, and I hope that California's economy is booming because everyone is going to come here and get married."

Challenges are definitely ahead: A community-spirited "Make Change, Not Lawsuits" educational drive smartly discourages out-of-staters who marry from recklessly suing back home.

And a California ballot initiative threatens to halt the marriages. But I'm betting by November most voters will recognize the advantages of not turning back the clock.

Already, a Field Poll released May 28, right after the California Supreme Court ruled that the state could no longer discriminate, found a majority -- 51 percent to 42 percent -- support gay couples' marrying. Among the Californians ages 18 to 29, support for gay marriage is 68 percent to 25 percent, versus just 36 percent to 55 percent among those 65 or older.

Broken down by race, whites favor it, 53 percent to 41 percent, as do Latinos, 49 percent to 42 percent.

And by 54 percent to 40 percent, Californians oppose "changing the California state constitution" to bar gay marriages.

The wedding snapshots tell the story: Happiness loves to be shared.

Deb Price of The Detroit News writes the first nationally syndicated column on gay issues. To find out more about Deb Price and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at
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