Monday was another big day for advocates of gay marriage and equality. Breaking from tradition, Pope Francis stated to reporters that he would not judge priests for their sexual orientation. "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?," said the Pope. Additionally, a Gallup poll showed that Americans would support the national legalization of same-sex marriage and favor equal rights for gay couples. This is the first poll conducted since the Supreme Court struck down DOMA in June, and the numbers show relatively similar results. The summer has proved the continually maturing social fabric of America, and how the acceptance of gay marriage and gay couples has strengthened immensely since the late 1990s.
Pope Francis's comments are an unprecedented change in the church's historical position against homosexuality. His predecessors have not shared his sentiments. Resigned Pope Benedict XVI believed that individuals with "deep-seated homosexual tendencies" should not become priests. When he was still a cardinal in 1986, the former pope addressed the "condition" of homosexuality.
"Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder. Therefore special concern and pastoral attention should be directed toward those who have this condition, lest they be led to believe that the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally acceptable option. It is not."
Supporters of gay rights had more reason to be pleased when Gallup released its new poll. It concluded that 52% of Americans would approve of legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states, while 43% would vote against it.
Back in May, a Gallup poll showed that, for the first time, a majority of Americans supported gay marriage, with 53% advocating legalization. In the most recent July poll, there is still a large divide in the acceptance of same-sex marriage between liberals and conservatives. "Across the nation's major demographic, political, and religious groups, support for the proposed law ranges from as high as 77% among self-described liberal Americans, and 76% among those with no religious affiliation, to as low as 23% among weekly churchgoers, and 30% among Republicans and conservatives," said Gallup.
There is no question that support for gay marriage legalization and equal rights has reached its highest historical point and shows no signs of slowing down. In 1996, when Gallup initially polled Americans about gay marriage, the national acceptance rate was 27%. Talk about progress.
The headway is substantial, but the poll also highlights the generational and political differences in the perception and acceptance of same-sex marriage. A majority of left-leaning, non-religious younger Americans support it, while right-wing, religious, older Americans do not. In the Gallup sample, only 33% of Americans over 55 support legalized same-sex marriage compared to 69% of 18-34 year-olds. It is evident that the progress toward attaining equality for gay couples has been a result of a millennial movement. The statistics prove a generational disparity.
This summer has been monumental for gay rights, particularly the striking down of DOMA, enabling federal benefits to be extended to gay partners in states where gay marriage is legal. Each day, more people understand that same-sex couples are humans, and they deserve to be treated equally. The growing acceptance of gay rights and people here in America, at the Vatican, and around the world shows that this movement has no signs of slowing down.