On Gay Marriage, American Values of Fairness Trump Conservative Hypocrisy

Legalizing gay marriage has always been right. Now, according to Gallup, it is popular. For the first time in 15 years of Gallup polling on the issue, a solid majority of Americans support same-sex marriage.

This week will go down in history as the tipping point on gay marriage. Not only because a solid majority of Americans now support legal gay marriage, but also because the opponents of gay marriage have thoroughly discredited themselves.

Today Gallup reported that 53 percent of Americans favor according all the legal rights of "traditional" marriage to same-sex couples. Among Democrats, independents, liberals and moderates, and Americans under the age of 50, support is overwhelming, ranging from 59 percent to 78 percent. The Gallup poll is not an outlier, as statistician Nate Silver noted last month about the trend in gay marriage opinion polling.

On one side, the bedrock American belief in fairness has prevailed. Meanwhile, the last few weeks have been chockfull of news about the stunning hypocrisy of those who have fought to stop gay marriage.

First the Catholic Church. In the Pope's words, same-sex marriage "distorts the essence and purpose of the family." Church officials have called for Catholic politicians who advocate gay marriage, abortion, or god forbid, have sex outside of marriage, to be denied communion. And then this week, we're treated to this rationalization on sexual morality. Why did so many priests sexually abuse children? Blame the sexual revolution, according to a report commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and released on Wednesday. Priests simply couldn't control themselves in the loose environment created by the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s.

Next to the Republican party. The newest champion of traditional family values in the 2012 presidential field is Newt Gingrich. Here's what Gingrich had to say about protests against the Mormon-funded anti-gay marriage initiative in California, Proposition 8:

I think there is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us, is prepared to use violence, to use harassment. I think it is prepared to use the government if it can get control of it. I think that it is a very dangerous threat to anybody who believes in traditional religion. And I think if you believe in historic Christianity, you have to confront the fact... These secular extremists are determined to impose on you acceptance of a series of values that are antithetical, they're the opposite, of what you're taught in Sunday school."

Although he paints himself as a traditionalist, Gingrich is a serial adulterer who has traded in two religions for his current orthodox Catholicism. He has gone through two wives (one of them cancer-ridden) and is on marriage number three, even as he warns that gays will destroy traditional religion and marriage. Gingrich walks his anti-gay talk. He was instrumental in the recall last November of the Iowa Supreme Court justices who had ruled in favor of the legality of same-sex marriage.

Let's not forget Republican U.S. Senator John Ensign, who resigned a few weeks ago to avoid being expelled from the senate over ethics charges stemming from his attempt to cover-up his affair with a staffer--a woman who was his best friend's wife. Ensign had previously pushed for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage on this logic: "Marriage is an extremely important institution in this country and protecting it is, in my mind, worth the extraordinary step of amending our constitution."

In case you're prone to dismiss these two examples as the just the delusional edge of the rightwing, cast your eyes on one of the exemplars of mainstream Republicanism. Arnold Schwarzenegger fathered a child ten years ago with a housekeeper who worked in his family's home. At the time, of course, Schwarzenegger was a husband and a father -- and not yet governor. During the course of two elections, he concealed the information from the citizens of California and his own family. Although Schwarzenegger is regarded as socially liberal, he in fact twice vetoed legislation to make same-sex marriage legal in California.

So-called traditional religious values were the last slim justification for denying some Americans the constitutional right to marry. Certainly I'm not saying all opponents of gay marriage are hypocrites. But when so many exponents of traditional marriage show such contempt for basic moral values, they lose the credibility to preach morality at the rest of us.

With a Republican party of this character, Democrats will have to take the lead on making sure popular opinion in favor of gay marriage is enacted as the law of the land. Better late than never.