Fragile Foundation of Marriage Equality, Part 2

More people are accepting marriage equality, but a solid majority as well as moderates and liberals say moral values are in decline.

Entitlement to self-fulfillment creates a solid philosophical basis for justifying same-sex unions. Who wants to deny anyone their inherent right to be happy? If some have same-sex attraction and that makes them feel good, then nobody should get in the way of their happiness. Approval of same-sex marriage is quite likely only a symptom of a much larger epidemic of narcissism that is infiltrating every part of our culture.

Read Part 1

In just the past few years, public opinion has drastically on marriage equality.

When President Obama declared his support for same-sex marriage on May 9, 2012, the scales of public opinion started tipping in a different direction.  Now, not only are Gallup, Associated Press and ABC News/Washington Post polls showing record numbers of Americans are in support of legalizing same-sex marriage,[i] but even the evangelical Christian polls are showing the shift. The Southern Baptist-affiliated LifeWay Research reports 58% of American adults agree same-sex marriage is a civil rights issue, and 64% believe it’s legality throughout the country is inevitable. The evangelical Barna Group has stated, “Clearly, social and legal acceptance of the LGBTQ community has passed the tipping point in the U.S.”[ii] (“Q” is sometimes added to “LGBT,” standing for “queer.”)

It must be noted here that people identifying as LGBT are actually a diverse group. Many are not looking for a fight. The fighters are the ones making the news and being quoted, but many LGBT-identifying people want to live their lifestyle quietly and to fit into society as best as possible without causing commotion. These people are not constantly waving rainbow flags, losing their temper or threatening lawsuits. They want a regular life and are looking to be friendly neighbors who volunteer at their children’s school and would rather not talk about sex. These LGBT people are the ones that are raising the approval of the public.

More than a few times I have heard Christians say they have seen more grace and kindness from the LGBT people they know than the church-going Christian people they know. (Such a scenario is reminiscent of the tax collectors and sinners who flocked to Jesus while the Bible scholars and most devout Pharisees were more interested in winning arguments and their ritual observance of religious rules. If you are a Christian opposed to same-sex marriage, make sure your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law – Matthew 5:20.)

At the other end of the LGBT spectrum are those who not only engage in gay sex but are aggressively and even recklessly pushing for their lifestyle to be universally accepted. While the former group is responsible for winning increasing acceptance of LGBT lifestyles among Americans, the latter group is posed to be the undoing of “marriage equality,” if present trends continue.

Pie Crust Polls

Yes, polls across the board show increasing support for same-sex marriage, but do they spell success of LGBT equality? Are we achieving a new level of human progress towards a utopia of peace and acceptance?

One online comment summarizes the optimism of greater equality, mentioning “a relatively sudden thawing of popular opinion, massively driven by more information about real live LGBT folks, greater incidence of knowing somebody in daily life who is gay, and the slow trickling down of human sciences and related information. Hat tip to the younger folks who were quick to reality test and begin adjusting their negative legacy views and beliefs.”[iii]

While marriage equality advocates get excited about surveys showing more support for same-sex marriage. The excitement is premature. These polls have a lot of holes.

Public polls are not all that they seem.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll from April 2013 was headlined with “53 percent support gay marriage.” What the news report failed to mention from the full results was how subsequent questions made public opinion more complex. When asked if marriage should be left to the states or be a federal standard definition 56 percent chose “federal standard defining marriage.” Results of the next question show that if there were a federal definition of marriage, support for gay marriage would drop below support for traditional marriage. Only 47 percent said a federal definition of marriage should include same-sex marriage. 48 percent said the definition should be “between one man and one woman.”[iv] A majority said they support gay marriage, but a majority also said there should be a federal definition of marriage, and that federal definition drops gay marriage support to even less than traditional marriage. It appears that people do not oppose same-sex marriage altogether, but are less comfortable making it law for the whole nation.

A small difference in how the questions are phrased can have different outcomes.

Mark Regnerus has a fascinating article on the potential bias of public opinion polls.[v] Gallup results may be skewed by the fact that the negative response is the one favoring traditional marriage. A recent Rice University study was unique in that the positive response is one of support for traditional marriage rather than for same-sex marriage, and the result was significantly different. Gallup continues to ask a question about the legality of “homosexual relations” before it asks about same-sex marriage, a technique known as “priming,” or preparing survey-takers for subsequent questions. Wording of a question makes a difference. Respondents appear to react positively to words like “rights,” “freedom,” and “benefits,” and negatively to words like “ban.”

Regnerus also mentions a finding by Patrick Egan in 2010 based on ten years of polling data about same-sex marriage in states that had voted on same-sex-marriage ballot initiatives that public-opinion polls consistently underestimated ballot-box opposition to SSM. Egan said, “The share of voters in pre-election surveys saying they will vote to ban same-sex marriage is typically seven percentage points lower than the actual vote on election day.”

A variety of dynamics are present to suggest that polls are overstating the shift to favor same-sex marriage and other LGBT-related matters.[vi] However, even if the polls are accurately reflecting public opinion, they might simply be reflecting the human tendency toward conformity. How many people are giving approval to same-sex marriage because they simply want to go with the flow and fit in to an increasingly diverse society, avoiding the socially-lethal bigoted or homophobic labels?

Fragile Opinions


Studies not only show that minority opinions gain traction among the majority when the minority message is consistent, but that people will conform their opinions to the majority unless there is a strong reason to dissent. The power of conformity without thought or consideration to one’s own beliefs or attitudes is basic to human nature. (See for yourself: Google the studies done by Muzafer Sherif, Solomon Asch, or Stanley Milgram to see how powerful human conformity can be.) How many people are simply giving approval just to fit in?

The public is decidedly exposed to many more arguments in favor of same-sex marriage than those opposed. The Pew Research Center’s analysis of 488 news stories covering same-sex marriage during the 2013 Supreme Court deliberation on United States v. Windsor showed a huge imbalance of coverage in favor of gay marriage supporters. Looking at a broad range of news sources (totaling 58 outlets, including newspapers, websites, network & cable television and radio), with everything from Huffington Post and Fox News, almost half focused on the support for same-sex marriage. More precisely, 47% of the stories gave at least twice as many statements in favor of same-sex marriage. Stories featuring double the amount of statements supporting same-sex marriage outnumbered stories doubling the opposition statements by a 5-to-1 margin.

“This news media focus on support held true whether the stories were reported news articles or opinion pieces, and was also the case across nearly all media sectors studied.” Even the conservative-friendly Fox News cable channel had 29% of its stories airing twice as many voices in favor of same-sex marriage than those opposed. Only 8% of Fox News stories had twice as many voices opposed to same-sex marriage.

Not only were voices supporting same-sex marriage dominating the news, but those voices were much more united in their reasoning. The main arguments presented in news coverage framed the issue around civil rights, that same-sex marriage is an equality issue. The opposing arguments that did get aired had a good deal of variation, with some saying it would hurt society, that it would hurt traditional marriage, that homosexuality was immoral, or government should not impose a new definition of marriage.[vii] Not only is the general public hearing far more voices supporting same-sex marriage but they are also hearing that the opposition cannot agree on why they are opposed. The stage is set not so much for huge shift in public opinion for LGBT rights, but a pressure to conform.

An Associated Press report on same-sex marriages in Wisconsin pointedly declared, “PUBLIC PRESSURE MAKES A DIFFERENCE” [emphasis not mine]. The story reports that the Outagamie County Clerk was refusing to accept applications for same-sex marriage licenses until hearing from a county attorney or the state Attorney General. “But the nearly 100 people gathered in her office refused to leave until they had filled out the paperwork.” A county attorney gave the green light and the crowd cheered.[viii]

“Most things change slowly,” said Tom Smith of the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center, which conducts the General Social Survey, arguably the most comprehensive regular survey of American society. “This is one of the most impressive changes we’ve measured.”[ix]

Widespread approval under pressure to conform fits with how many LGBT-identifying people we think there are.

Gallup reports that the average American believes around 1 in 4 people are “gay or lesbian.” This is at least five times greater than the actual amount. According to Gallup, the actual percentage of those identifying as LGBT is 3.8 percent.[x] Only 9 percent of respondents said under 5 percent, while a whopping 33 percent said more than 1 in 4 are gay or lesbian.[xi]

A conformed opinion is an empty opinion. It is easily made and rationalized (“Everyone else thinks it’s true!” “There’s safety in numbers”), but also easily dropped if the winds change – (“I never really thought that way myself”).


We’ve seen how many people think there are far many more LGBT people than what’s accurate. It turns out that polls show the American public has a much more complex view of same-sex marriage.

Polls show we have double standards when it comes to law and faith.

Pew Research found that American acceptance of marriage equality has changed significantly but their religious views have not changed much. American adults went from 58 percent opposed and 33 percent in favor of same-sex marriage in 2003 to 49 percent in favor and 44 percent opposed in 2013. Yet, “While public acceptance of homosexuality has increased, a majority of Americans (56%) agree that ‘same-sex marriage would go against my religious beliefs.’ While this is down six points overall from 10 years ago, it has shifted little—and remains the majority position—among most religious groups.” This means 28% of Americans agree both that same-sex marriage should be legal but it would go against their religious beliefs.[xii] Apparently, people don’t want to rock the boat or hurt anyone’s feelings, but have a sense that same-sex marriage is morally wrong.

While we personally believe actions right or wrong, polls show Americans are taking a more hands-off approach to moral issues altogether. We don’t want to tell others what they do is wrong.

Americans are giving moral assent in record numbers to 12 of 19 issues tracked by Gallup, including having a child outside marriage, divorce, unmarried sex, doctor-assisted suicide, and even unassisted suicide. The sharpest increase has been “acceptance of gay and lesbian relations,” which has “swelled from 38% in 2002 to majority support since 2010.” But strangely, the Gallup reports have also found something else.

“The rise of same-sex marriages across the country may be representative of that newfound acceptance. However,” the 2014 report continues. “In the same poll, 74% of Americans said they thought the state of moral values in the U.S. is getting worse.”[xiii] The 2015 report found record numbers of Americans saying the nation’s moral values are in bad shape. A full 45 percent say “the overall state or moral values in this country today” is “poor.” Another 34 percent say “only fair,” leaving only 19 percent saying “excellent” or “good.” And the negativity isn’t just from stick-in-the-mud conservatives. Social moderates are increasing their support of same-sex marriage, but are also saying moral values are poor at new highs. Between 2014 and 2015 the amount of moderates who said the nation’s current moral values are “poor” went from 39 percent to 46 percent, which is statistically significant.[xiv]  When asked, “right now, do you think the state of moral values in the country as a whole is getting better or getting worse?” 81 percent of social conservatives, 76 percent of social moderates, and a majority of social liberals, 58 percent, answered that moral values are getting worse.[xv]

More people are accepting marriage equality, but a solid majority as well as moderates and liberals say moral values are in decline.

This is a confusing result. If more issues are morally acceptable then correspondingly fewer are objectionable and we would expect less offense taken by changing trends in the nation. But over 70 percent of Americans actually believe moral values are in decline, even as more actions are considered morally permissible. The 2014 Gallup report closes by saying, “Deep divisions exist among Americans…”

It’s as if Americans are compromising on their moral standards, and deep down they are aware of it, but don’t want to be the moral police. The last thing we want to be is bigoted and prejudiced. We want to fit in and be accepted, so we are more reluctant to take a stand and operating with a “live and let live” philosophy.

Unfortunately, this might be the least of our problems.

Larger Trends Ominous For All

Greater acceptance of same-sex marriage is not the only change occurring in society. Other changes are happening at the same time that raises concern in almost everyone.


Narcissism is on the rise. Entitlement to whatever feels good is increasing rapidly, especially among younger people. Young people raised in the 80s and 90s were accustomed to getting the clothes and toys they wanted by just making a scene with mom or dad, who were either divorced and trying to be the “cool” parent, or so overworked that putting a foot down was just too much to handle. It was the age of building up self-esteem with giving awards for just showing up and songs on Sesame Street saying, “believe in yourself” and family flicks with a message of, “you can do anything if you put your mind to it,” as if we were our own deities. Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell’s The Narcissism Epidemic gives a thorough diagnosis on the cultural shift towards self. With inflated self-esteems, more people are consumed with physical appearance, being the center of attention, owning the best phones and cars, dating the hottest girls or boys, and expecting all their needs and wants to be met by those around them. When a narcissist is told “no,” then a fierce reaction results. Experience has proved to them that all you have to do is make a scene and the authorities will cave. Scores on tests for narcissism have accelerated, beginning in the early 90s and seeing tremendous jumps in the 2000s. Even the “good” people are caught in the current. People used to volunteer because “it was the right thing to do” or “people really need help.” Today people volunteer because “I want to make a difference.”

Same-sex marriage could be the least of social concerns at the moment. With the rise of narcissism, more people, believing themselves to be entitled to the best, are spending instead of saving. Enormous amounts of debt led to a financial crisis in 2008. Obesity continues to climb despite all the gyms and diets, (although most people deny being overweight[xvi]). Sexting and “hooking up” are trending among young people.[xvii] Sexuality is more casual and less exclusive even outside marriage.

Entitlement to self-fulfillment creates a solid philosophical basis for justifying same-sex unions. Who wants to deny anyone their inherent right to be happy? If some have same-sex attraction and that makes them feel good, then nobody should get in the way of their happiness. Approval of same-sex marriage is quite likely only a symptom of a much larger epidemic of narcissism that is infiltrating every part of our culture.

It could be argued that these changes of narcissism, obesity and suicide are correlations only, not causes. While it’s true that correlation does not mean causation, if trends are occurring together then we likely have a chicken and egg scenario. Inflated egos fit well with demanding more rights, pushing sexual boundaries, and reacting with severe offense when denied.

Whether the expanding boundaries led to bigger egos or bigger egos led to pushing the boundaries, we have a relationship.

Birth = right

Narcissism means that people all have a divine right to happiness, as defined by each person. Any imposing of “right” or “wrong” means exclusion and a denial of their humanity.

“It’s nobody’s right to say, ‘This is right or this is wrong’ or exclude a certain group of people,” said Ashley Williams, 25, an elementary school teacher from Durham, N.C. “Just because they’re gay doesn’t mean they’re any less human.”[xviii]

The problem is in humans, the more “rights” we have, the less satisfied we are with our freedoms. More freedoms for LGBT-identifying persons will not lead to satisfaction. Actually, as more and more Americans want more freedoms for LGBT citizens and states legalize same-sex marriage, the less satisfied we are with our freedoms.

One recent Gallup poll shows “Fewer Americans are satisfied with the freedom to choose what they do with their lives compared with seven years ago — dropping 12 percentage points from 91% in 2006 to 79% in 2013. In that same period, the percentage of Americans dissatisfied with the freedom to choose what they do with their lives more than doubled, from 9% to 21%.”[xix]

LGBT freedoms are increasing rapidly, but Americans are rapidly growing dissatisfied with their personal freedoms. Is legalized same-sex marriage ruining personal freedoms for the rest of America? Perhaps, but this is directly contrary to the political correctness that fills the air we breathe. Maybe they are not connected directly. Perhaps Americans see LGBT freedoms as completely separate from their own, as if same-sex marriage is more freedom for LGBT people while their own freedoms are worsening. At the very least, we have a disconnect between people’s own freedoms and the freedoms of LGBT persons. If people felt any personal solidarity with LGBT marriage equality deep down in their hearts, then satisfaction with personal freedom would be increasing or at least remaining steady. But satisfaction is in steep decline.

The more freedoms we achieve, the more we want. Not unlike money, “Whoever loves money never has money enough” (Ecclesiastes 5:10), as we pursue LGBT-friendly laws, more will be demanded. “Equality” is never enough.

“Equality is not the finish line. Simply removing discriminatory laws from the books should be the bare minimum of what we seek,” so says Janson Wu, GLAD Executive Director and LGBTQ rights lawyer. After equality comes special protection status under the law, redefining families, and forcing everyone to celebrate LGBT lifestyles.[xx]

Of course, not all proponents of “equality” will be on board with all of these changes. LGBT individuals are quite diverse, but those leading the charge are talking as if the demands will not stop until everyone not only tolerates or accepts but affirms and celebrates alternative sexual lifestyles.

The case of Obergefell v. Hodges will only be the beginning, and the result will not be satisfaction, but increasing dissatisfaction on all sides.

Rev. Aaron Vriesman is Pastor at North Blendon Christian Reformed Church (CRC) in Hudsonville, Mich.


[i] “Same-Sex Marriage and Gay Rights: A Shift in Americans’ Attitudes,” Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
“Major survey shows most Americans support same-sex marriage” By Emily Swanson; Associated Press; Mar 5, 2015 2:03 PM EST (retrieved Friday, March 6, 2015)

[ii] “America’s Change of Mind on Same-Sex Marriage and LGBTQ Rights,” the Barna Report; July 3, 2013. (retrieved July 2, 2014).

[iii] Comment by “drdanfee” Aug 25, 2014 at 2:01 pm on the article, “Four evangelical responses to gay rights — they’ve changed a lot since ’69” by Tobin Grant; Religion News Service, blogs > Corner of Church and State | Aug 15, 2014 (retrieved Tuesday, August 26, 2014)

[iv] “NBC/WSJ poll: 53 percent support gay marriage” by Mark Murray, NBC News, Thursday April 11, 2013 8:58 PM (retrieved Wednesday, October 22, 2014)
cf. Full Poll Results, Study #13127 – page 14 (retrieved Wednesday, October 22, 2014)

[v] “‘Right Side of History,’ or Primed to Say Yes?” by Mark Regnerus, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE August 20, 2013 4:00 AM (retrieved July 20, 2014)

[vi] “3 Reasons Polls May Be Overstating Support for Same-Sex Marriage,” by Napp Nazworth; The Christian Post; September 2, 2013 | 12:55pm (retrieved July 10, 2014)

[vii] “News Coverage Conveys Strong Momentum for Same-Sex Marriage,” Pew Research Center, press release (retrieved July 10, 2014, and June 17, 2015); full report (retrieved July 10, 2014)

[viii] “5 Things to know about gay marriage in Wisconsin,” by M.L. Johnson; Associated Press via ABC News; June 10, 2014 (retrieved June 10, 2014)

[ix] “Gay marriage gains rapid support with U.S. public, including conservatives,” by Cathy Lynn Grossman; Religion News Service, March  6, 2015 (retrieved same day).

[x] “Special Report: 3.4% of U.S. Adults Identify as LGBT,” by Gary J. Gates and Frank Newport; Gallup, October 18, 2012 (retrieved Friday, May 22, 2015)

[xi] “The overestimation [of the size of the LGBT population] may also reflect prominent media portrayals of gay characters on television and in movies, even as far back as 2002, and perhaps the high visibility of activists who have pushed gay causes, particularly legalizing same-sex marriage.”
— “Americans Greatly Overestimate Percent Gay, Lesbian in U.S.” by Frank Newport; Gallup, May 21, 2015 (retrieved Friday, May 22, 2015)

[xii] When asked to agree or disagree that “Same-sex marriage would go against my religious beliefs,” white evangelical Protestants only shifted 1 percent, Black Protestants shifted 2 percent, and Catholics 3 percent. “White mainline Protestants are the only religious group that has changed substantially on this question,” according to the report, shifting 14 percentage points from 58 percent in 2003 to 44 percent in 2013.
– “Changing Attitudes on Gay Marriage” Pew Forum Research; March 20, 2013 (retrieved August 4, 2014)

[xiii] “New Record Highs in Moral Acceptability,” by Rebecca Riffkin; Gallup; May 30, 2014 (retrieved July 24, 2014)

[xiv] “Majority in U.S. Still Say Moral Values Getting Worse,” by Justin McCarthy; Gallup; Tuesday, June 2, 2015 (retrieved Monday, June 8, 2015).

[xv] “Even Most Liberals Believe America Is in Moral Decline,” By Napp Nazworth , Christian Post; June 3, 2015 | 3:38 pm (retrieved June 10, 2015)

[xvi] Most of us are overweight but say otherwise. While over two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, about the same percentage of Americans claim they are “not overweight.” What is more baffling is the breakdown shows more disconnect between beliefs and reality. While the May 29 report by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington showed 71% of American men and 62% of American women were either overweight or obese,[xvi] the June 10, 2014 Gallup poll shows 60% of American men and 50% of American women claim to be “not overweight and not trying to lose weight” with an additional 6% of men and 10% of women claiming “not overweight but trying to lose weight.” So men are more likely to be overweight (71% vs. 62% of women) but also more likely to believe they are not overweight (66% vs. 60% of women). See “In U.S., Majority ‘Not Overweight,’ Not Trying to Lose Weight,” by Joy Wilke; Gallup on Tuesday, June 10, 2014 (retrieved Wednesday, July 2, 2014)

[xvii] Glenn, N., & Marquardt, E. (2001). “Hooking up, hanging out, and hoping for Mr. Right: College women on dating and mating today.” An Institute for American Values report for the Independent Women’s Forum.

[xviii] “Poll: Americans say there’s no turning back on gay marriage,” by Susan Page / USA Today | April 21, 2015 (retrieved Wednesday, April 22, 2015)

[xix] “Americans Less Satisfied With Freedom” by Jon Clifton; Gallup, Monday, July 1, 2014. (retrieved July 2, 2014)

[xx] Wu continues, “…First and foremost, a movement for LGBTQ justice means that no one is left behind, especially the most vulnerable in our community. We have not achieved justice while there exists an epidemic of violence and murder against trans women, particularly trans women of color, or while 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ. Instead, we must demand greater accountability from police and prosecutors, and greater government support for and affirmation of LGBT out-of-home youth to ensure that the most vulnerable in our community do not end up on the streets. … What good is the ability to marry if you can be fired the next day for wearing your wedding ring? And how effective are our employment discrimination laws if the religious right carves out exemptions so broad you can drive a truck through them? …It is beyond time for Congress to pass comprehensive LGBT discrimination protections that treats sexual orientation and gender identity the same as any other protected characteristic when it comes to religious exemptions. … The LGBT community was born out of redefining familial bonds so that we are all family, regardless of genetics or marriage. Our families come in all shapes and sizes, and we must overhaul our outdated family laws that fail to acknowledge this reality. Finally, and most importantly, a movement for equal justice under law means that LGBT people are not just protected — we are affirmed and celebrated. What if, in addition to ensuring that LGBT students are safe in school, we made sure that all students learned about the contributions of LGBT people to history, literature, and science. That every June for LGBT history month, schoolkids had to choose their favorite LGBT leader to write a report about.”
– Janson Wu, GLAD Executive Director, LGBTQ rights lawyer; “Beyond (Marriage) Equality”; Posted: 05/04/2015 10:30 am EDT (retrieved Monday, May 4, 2015).

[Editor’s note: One or more original URLs (links) referenced in this article are no longer valid; those links have been removed.]