Many politicians have had a long dark night of the poll. They know that public opinion on gay rights has changed. Gallup just issued a poll showing that more than half of Americans believe that “gay or lesbian relations” are “morally acceptable.” Seventy percent, including majorities of all demographic groups, favor allowing openly gay people to serve in the military. Those are big changes since 2003, much less 1993, and politicians can read polls. Indeed, one thing that gay progress shows us is that cultural change precedes political change.
I\’m very dubious about the idea that changes in the law lead to changes in peoples\’ attitudes. I think (while there might be very limited influence that way) that the real effect is that we change our views and the politicians reflect such changes by changing the law.
Votes for women, decriminalisation not just of Teh Gayness, but of all sorts of sexual behaviours that were previously illegal (adultery for example), racial discrimination: it was the general public mood that changed first, then the law.