Ironically, gay marriage opponents are a bigger threat to marriage’s continuing legitimacy than gay marriage itself.
With each passing generation, anti-gay bigotry is seen as less acceptable. Fifty years ago, no politician would have dared to express support for gays in public; today, even conservative politicians feel obligated to stress that they’re not being judgmental of gays even as they support anti-gay laws. (Hence, asked about gay marriage, George Bush’s first response was “I am mindful that we’re all sinners. And I caution those who may try to take the speck out of the neighbor’s eye when they’ve got a log in their own.”)
Moreover, poll after poll after poll shows that the younger generation is far more supportive of gay rights – including gay marriage – than previous generations. This matches my experience; many of my heterosexual friends have questioned if they’ll get married or not because they’re not sure they want to be part of an exclusionary and homophobic institution.
If lesbians and gays continue to be locked out of marriage, marriage itself will lose legitimacy. It will be seen as something done by the homophobic and backward, rather than something decent, non-bigoted people do. If folks like Eve and Maggie Gallagher really want to preserve marriage as an institution, they better hope that they continue losing the same-sex marriage debate.