Have culture war issues returned to America?
America’s seemingly dormant culture wars reignited this week as the issue of gay marriage competed with the sour economy and volatile markets for media attention.
The emotive issue was thrust back onto center stage by Vermont lawmakers on Tuesday, who overode a veto from the governor by a wafer-thin margin, making the New England state the fourth in the United States where gays can wed. You can see some of our coverage from earlier this week here and here.
Known for picturesque foliage, quaint dairy farms and socially liberal politics, Vermont joins New England neighbors Connecticut and Massachusetts in allowing gay marriage. Iowa legalized gay marriage last week.
Vermont is the first to do so through legislative action instead of the courts. Social conservative critics of gay marriage often decry “judicial activism,” maintaining that unelected courts are forcing social change that most Americans do not want.
Courts briefly allowed gay marriage in California before voters banned at the polls.
Gay marriage has emerged as a key battleground in America’s culture wars. Opponents, who are mostly religious conservatives (evangelicals, Catholics and Mormons) see it as a threat to the “traditional family” which they say is ordained by God and is the foundation of civilization. They also see same-sex acts as a biblical sin.
Supporters see it as a human rights issue, one that follows the path blazed by the civil rights movement to enfranchise blacks in the U.S. South and end segregation there as well as the women’s rights movement. (And many of the current opponents of gay marriage, such as white evangelical southerners, also opposed the civil rights movement and still bristle at “feminism.”)
There are various shades of ambiguity on the issue in between but overall it makes for an explosive political mix and this week all the major U.S. morning and evening news, talk and cable TV shows devoted attention to it.
Does that mean that culture wars are back on the radar screen, especially as the country awaits a California Supreme Court ruling on the issue which should be out soon? Or is this a blip and will this battle quickly fade and remain, at least for awhile, in the overwhelming shadow of the economic and recession story?
(Photo: People with opposing viewpoints on gay marriage demonstrate outside the California Supreme Court in San Francisco, California March 5, 2009. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith (UNITED STATES)