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Posted on Mon, Mar 25, 2013 : 6 a.m.

Gay marriage: Have you changed your mind?

By Wayne Baker


Now, the future of marriage is in their hands: the United States Supreme Court.

Editor's note: This post is part of a series by Dr. Baker on Our Values about core American values. This week Dr. Baker is discussing gay marriage.

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court this week begins hearings on one of the most fundamental human institutions: marriage.

The cases at issue involve California’s gay-marriage ban and a federal law that limits marriage to a man and a woman. This raises lots of questions for OurValues readers. And, this week, I hope you will help us show the value of this kind of column by adding your own thoughts in a civil way. Let’s get a vigorous discussion going on these questions:

Will the high court legalize same-sex marriage?

What’s your view of the institution of marriage?

Have you changed in your mind about same-sex marriage?

Many people have changed their minds—and you might be surprised to learn why!

The court is considering these landmark cases at a time when public opinion has shifted in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. One clear reason for the shift is age. The younger you are, the more likely you support same-sex marriage.

For example, 70 percent of the Millennial generation (born after 1980) support legalizing same-sex marriage, while only 38 percent of the Baby Boom generation (born 1946-1964) also support it, according to a report released this month by the Pew Research Center.

But the story isn’t all about demographics.

Many Americans have changed their minds about gay marriage. In 2003, only 51 percent percent of Millennials favored same-sex marriage. Even members of the Silent Generation — the cohort most opposed to same-sex marriage — have changed their minds. Now, 31 percent of Americans born 1928-1945 support same-sex marriage, compared to only 17 percent in 2003.

Why have people changed their minds? The legal arguments revolve around the issue of equal rights. But is that the reason why people changed their minds? The No. 1 reason, according to Pew, is this: knowing someone who is homosexual. Almost a third (32 percent) said this was why they support gay-marriage now but once opposed it.

Respect for others is the second most-cited reason, given by 25 percent of those who have changed their minds and are now in favor. Respect for others is one of the 10 core American values, as we’ve discussed before. People who give this reason say they have grown more open, more tolerant, and gotten older and wiser.

How about belief in equal rights? Only 8 percent of those who had changed their minds gave this explanation as the reason why.

What’s your opinion of same-sex marriage?

Have you changed your opinion?

If so, why?

Add a comment below, please:

And, let’s show readers that we can have a vigorous, civil dialogue this week.

Wayne Baker is a sociologist on the faculty of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. Baker blogs daily at Our Values and can be reached at or on Facebook.



Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 4:13 p.m.

Civil union (rights, support, property) should be government endowed and regulated (e.g., still denied for consanguinity) and available to homo- and hetero-sexual. Religious/spiritual institutions should have the freedom to say what they recognize as marriage (spiritual union) within their own organization, with no bearing on legal status. Individuals could choose which they want (either or both or neither).

Lynn Liston

Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 2:14 p.m.

I was looking at the questions above and realizing that for my entire life I have known people who were in "non-traditional" marriages. Only as an adult did I grasp that these marriages didn't have the legal status of my own parents' marriages. When thinking of whether these marriages should be legalized, I guess for me the only question is 'Why Not?". Marriage is thought of in two ways - the legally binding social contract between two consenting adult persons, and the religious vows and binding contract before God. Only one of these is required to create a legal marriage- the social contract, and that can be performed by any licensed person in any place, courtroom, office park or church. It's the social contract that specifies the rights and obligations of each party and that provides for the legal protections of the partners, offspring and survivors. Without this social contract in place, there is no legal basis for the marriage, even if it was performed in a religious setting. Our current definition of legal marriage as one man/one woman is a barrier to not only gay couples hoping to have the legal protections of marriage, but also to those who can be married within their religion but not within the law such as Muslim second and third wife marriages. I profoundly hope that the Supreme Court will find that the constitutionality of marriage resides in its legal contract, extending those legal protections to those who have been denied them, whether it is a gay couple or a family of a faith that allows another wife. I would never ask a religious institution to sanctify a union that is against its beliefs, since that takes place within its doors, at its own altar, but I think we need to separate the legal definition of marriage from its religious definition and extend a broader set of rights to everyone.


Mon, Mar 25, 2013 : 12:28 p.m.

This has always been my view on this subject. A "marriage" is something that is between a Man and a Woman. If two people of the same sex wish to join together as a couple with exactly the same rights as a married couple a simple change in what that bond is called (Eg. Civil Union) should be written in to law. The law should mirror Marriage Laws. Anything involving the Government should be changed to include "Married or Civilly Unionized" (if that is the chosen term). This keeps the religion and state separated as it is intended to do. I was born in a Catholic Household and raised that way. However at a very young age I knew I was blossoming in to someone lets say different from what was socially accepted at the time. I do strongly believe in god, but the Catholic Church and every other religion that preaches acceptance and let's say "love thy neighbor" ought to be ashamed of themselves. I am a gay male and I was born this way. I'm not a perverted, and I know I am not condemned to hell. I don't believe for minute god put me here to condemn me to hell. I walk amongst the general public of this country and have surprised many people when I told them I was gay. I will never walk in to a catholic church nor any other type of religious institution that condemns me but would gladly take my cash if I handed it over. I am all for any two people who want to bond and make a commitment to each other. IMO the wording needs to be changed and however two people choose to celebrate their bond is their business. I am a productive member of society and I expect to be treated as such. I work in a Public Service position and many of you reading this encounter me five days a week. I treat you with the utmost respect, treat me the same. What shocks me the most is when I hear children and young adults using derogatory terms toward gay people. It makes me sick to think parents are still teaching their children it's OK to hate. That is not a family value.


Tue, Mar 26, 2013 : 1:14 p.m.

I think you have the solution: grant identical rights and privileges to all couples who make legal commitments to one another. The word "Marriage" has centuries of meaning and many can't (or won't) get beyond it so leave that for two-sex couples and make the term Civil Union equally respected and legitimate for one-sex couples. Don't try to use Marriage for them because it sends up such red flags among the people or groups who just can't (or won't) change with the times that they will make endless pious objections. Society will accept both terms easily within a few years.

Bertha Venation

Mon, Mar 25, 2013 : 1:23 p.m.

I'm with you, Ypsi... I don't care about the word "Marriage." I just want the same rights. Like someone once joked to me... "Why shouldn't gays be just as miserable as straights in marriage?"