Contrary to what some people (like those predicting the vote count in the New York Senate this morning) seem to think, same-sex marriage is not a “no brainer.” The very notion cuts against the deeply rooted sense of most people that marriage is about something more than adult desires. That sense, I believe, is at the root of the continuing series of no votes on same-sex marriage in the states where there’s been a popular election, in a number of court decisions (New York, Maryland, Washington), and now in the New York Senate.
That is why the marriage redefinition push has relied so strongly on the inevitability claim — to overwhelm legislators’ and voters’ qualms about same-sex marriage with a fear that they will be labeled bigots. The leader of the Human Rights Campaign reacted to today’s vote with this inevitability talking point: “The senators who voted against marriage equality today are on the wrong side of history, but the history of marriage equality will not end with today’s vote.”
Again and again, the inevitability claim has been rebutted by reality, but it is a tenacious idea, at least partially because it appeals to the cult of novelty that holds sway among media elites. That’s why every “setback” for gay marriage is proclaimed a “shocking” development even though each is just a repeat of something that’s happened over and over again.
In fact, the Northeastern experiment with same-sex marriage is looking ever more isolated, and that’s good news for marriage.