You’d be hard-pressed to find something less controversial among people under 30 than marriage equality. According to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, 81% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 believe that every American should be able to marry the person they love. That kind of unanimity is almost impossible to find on any issue. To put things in perspective, according to another recent poll by PPP, millennials don’t even have that level of certainty about whether Chinese food is delicious (72% have a favorable view of it, 25% disagree).
That’s crazy, if you think about it. Not just because General Tso’s is self-evidently delicious, and 25% of people are clearly wrong. But also because marriage equality is no longer a partisan issue — it’s a generational one.
So we young folks have a choice to make. We can either look around, realize that the debate about marriage equality is almost over within our own circle of friends, and get complacent — even as two landmark case on marriage reach the U.S. Supreme Court. Or, we can take advantage of our unique generational perspective and bring the rest of the country along with us.
Fortunately, at this decisive moment, it’s clear that millenials aren’t putting our feet up. We’re choosing to hurry this country along toward an equal future.
Last November, not only did young voters play a decisive role in sending President Barack Obama back to the White House, we literally made the difference in the three states where marriage equality scored its first-ever ballot box victories — Maine, Maryland and Washington.
And it’s not just in the voting booth where young people are tipping the balance; we’re changing the minds of the people closest to us every day. Two major newfound supporters of marriage equality have credited their children for influencing their change of heart.
When Senator Rob Portman of Ohio announced that he now favors marriage equality two weeks ago, he became the first sitting Republican Senator in this session of Congress to do so. And the Senator was perfectly straightforward about what led him to take a second look — his college-aged son came out as gay:
“Knowing that my son is gay prompted me to consider the issue from another perspective: that of a dad who wants all three of his kids to lead happy, meaningful lives with the people they love, a blessing [my wife] and I have shared for 26 years.”
It’s just that simple.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) also credited her kids for her recent evolution on the issue. “My children have a hard time understanding why [marriage equality] is even controversial,” McCaskill said in a tumblr post announcing her shift. “I think history will agree with my children."
Whatever history thinks, today’s fight isn’t over. Not even close. In 41 states, marriage equality is still a dream rather than a reality. And beyond the marriage issue, it is still perfectly legal in more than half the states in this country to fire or refuse to hire someone simply on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
But I’ve never been more optimistic that young people will play an essential role in finishing this work. I’m proud to be a millennial because this generation has a sense of justice that is fundamental to our identity. Gay or straight, transgender or cisgender, we’re not comfortable with anything less than a fair shot for everybody.
Regardless of how you feel about Chinese food, it’s just a part of who we are.