As I\’ve been saying for some time

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.

6 thoughts on “As I\’ve been saying for some time”

  1. I agree with your general point, but adultery? When and where (in the West, I’d better specify) was that ever actually illegal, as opposed to just frowned upon and preached against?

    Tim adds:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adultery#Criminal_penalties

    Given that it has been “decriminalised” in most of Europe I would assume that it was once criminal:

    “Most European countries have decriminalized adultery. Adultery is not a crime in most countries of the European Union, including Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, Finland or Sweden. In some Southern-European countries, adultery can lead to the so called vendetta, which is illegal (with penalties up to life sentence), but carries reduced sentences.
    [edit] North America

    In the United States, laws vary from state to state. In those states where adultery is still on the statute book (although rarely prosecuted), penalties vary from life sentence (Michigan)[48], to a fine of $10 (Maryland), to a Class I felony (Wisconsin) [49]. In the U.S. Military, adultery is a potential court-martial offense.[15] The enforceability of adultery laws in the United States is unclear following Supreme Court decisions since 1965 relating to privacy and sexual intimacy of consenting adults. [50] However, occasional prosecutions do occur.[51]”

  2. Brian, follower of Deornoth

    Adultery was illegal in Britain, but it was called “Criminal Conversation”.

  3. A charge levelled against the history books used in US schools is that they attribute all sorts of change to politicians – especially federal politicians – when they clearly arose from the population.

  4. It’s why all the talk about how Labour reduced the age of consent for the gays is slightly deceptive. They probably were less conservative in this regard, but not by much. There’s no way in the early 80s that you could have had a policy of equalising the age of consent that would have gone down well.

  5. There’s a prosecution for criminal adultery ongoing in New York at this very moment. Then, they were at it in a park…

    Tim, think a middle ground is possibly the case. There’s no doubt at all that politicians follow pulbic perception, but sometimes legislative change can accelerate the process. I’m 100% certain that many Grannies are a lot more accepting of homosexual relationships once they’ve been to a grandchilds civil partnership ceremony.

    Seeing gay/lesbian couples in “normal” relationships with proper services and similar has helped a lot in dealing with public perception. I think the public were already ready for civil partnerships, and now see them as marriage so we might as well remove the last differences (or allow both for both), but their existence has really helped.

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