The Social Forces Churning the US Toward Tolerance

Today’s front-page New York Times article on the pro-gay-marriage movement’s evolving donor network is well worth a read:

This emerging group of donors is not quite like any other fund-raising network that has supported gay-related issues over the past 40 years. They come from Hollywood, yes, but also from Wall Street and Washington and the corporate world; there are Republicans as well as Democrats; and perhaps most strikingly, longtime gay organizers said, there has been an influx of contributions from straight donors unlike anything they have seen before.

There are complicated, nuanced explanations for why this is taking place. But there’s also a simple one, a cascade effect induced by the overall declining level of homophobia in the United States.

There are still plenty of places in this country where being openly gay—and in particular being an openly gay teen—is incredibly difficult, if not dangerous. But on the whole, it is getting progressively easier for gay folks to come out of the closet. And, particularly in conservative areas, every time this occurs there are a bunch of folks who all of a sudden have personal or professional ties to a real-life gay person for the first time. In the vast majority of cases, this ends up bringing tolerance—or something like it—which in turn makes it easier for other gay folks to come out, which in turn converts more straights into allies, etcetera.

So it’s no wonder that unexpected people are contributing to the gay rights movement. It’s hard to stay out of a fight like this one when you know people who are personally affected.

Jesse Singal

Jesse Singal is a former opinion writer for The Boston Globe and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. He is currently a master's student at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Policy. Follow him on Twitter at @jessesingal.