Much attention has been given to the issue of same-sex marriage recently. Vice President Biden's and Education Secretary Arne Duncan's statements of support are simply the tip of the iceberg. Beyond these high profile endorsements the growing sentiment is that Americans are becoming more accepting of the idea everyday.
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life recently released new data reinforcing this fact. The data reveals an about-face, with 47% of the public now favoring same-sex marriage, and only 43% in opposition. In fact, they report across the board demographical gains. With younger generations, whites, blacks, men, women, the religiously unaffiliated, Catholics, white mainline Protestants, Democrats, Independents, liberals, moderates, and conservatives reporting the largest increases.
If the direction of this data is to be believed, then the question is no longer if, but when does same-sex marriage become a protected right. However, the reason for such a conclusion is not due to the Pew Forum's figures. Their numbers are merely an illustration of the outworking of more internal and central processes of the American psyche.
The reason for such a conclusion is the type of American needed to oppose said issue is no longer being produced in significant quantities. Or more clearly stated, not enough Americans believe the securing of individual rights is grounded in something other than the whims of society. Rather, the developing perspective is, how many right(s) lie "undiscovered" in our founding documents. These notions not only have a growing majority of the population promoting them. A complete reinterpretation of American ideals, in regard to individual rights, is their driving force.
For instance, the trend of granting individual rights on the basis of societal demands is not wholly intolerable. Think of the rights extended to women and minorities. These came from within, from the petition of American's to abolish certain unjust inequalities. Society was right to demand such action. It is a corruption of this idea influencing the same-sex marriage debate.
The truth or appropriateness of extending equal rights to women and minorities was because said rights were withheld unjustly. What our founding documents promoted and what the contemporary American society promoted were not in alignment. The understanding of the latter deemed certain individuals inferior, simply because of some perceived, but not actual defect. This was not beholden to our ideals. In America all are created equal and granted certain unalienable rights. To withhold these rights from members of our society who are intrinsically due said rights is unnatural, unjust, and immoral.
Contemporary society has reshaped this argument, widening its applicability and inserting a different grounding principle. Americans now believe the right(s) we demand, is what is right, regardless of their moral standing. We no longer look to our founding documents first; we look to our whims first, and then subsequently find a provision for the right(s) in our founding documents.
Thomas Jefferson noted what he intended to accomplish with the Declaration of Independence was an expression of the American mind. If this is the case, than the declaration and the constitution flow from a set of ideals, which endorse an objective stance on the rights of Americans. A stance that grounds the promulgation and propagation of rights not in society, or those who govern society. Instead, they are grounded in a person, wholly other than these two entities; namely God.
That the majority of American's, and particularly our leaders, only endorse this ideal as a matter of tradition or formality is a given. For, while an overwhelming majority of American's believe in a "god" the entity they imagine looks more like them, than the God grounding the declaration, let alone Jesus of Nazareth. It is this corruption of the grounding of our founding that will ultimately lead to the full protection of same-sex marriage, and other societal whims, as protected rights.
While, this may sound like a defeatist argument it is not. It is an acknowledgement of the vast amount of ground surrendered because the preservation of principle was too costly a sacrifice. It is also an acknowledgement that orthodox, Christian theology has drifted far from the minds of contemporary Americans. We no longer are a nation that cares what God does or does not endorse. We no longer seek to understand if our whims are right; we only desire rights that fit our whims.