Spain, with its cultural strains of machismo, is an unlikely candidate as an early adopter of gay marriage, yet in 2005 it became the third country to provide full marriage equality to homosexuals. In 2005 I was at an international scientific conference and happened to have dinner with a colleague from Spain. I asked him what was going on.
He told me that even though Spain was largely a Catholic country, most Spaniards supported gay marriage. He said that the Catholic church had lost a lot of credibility with people after they supported the brutally repressive political regime of Francisco Franco. The Catholic church made a big noise on this issue, but no one listened.
A recent editorial in the Los Angeles Times by a Republican political strategist predicts hard times for California's Proposition 8 that would outlaw gay marriage by amending the state's constitution. The speculators on the political prediction market Intrade place the odds that the amendment will pass at 30%.
I wonder if something is going on here similar to the case of Spain. When I was in California a few weeks ago for a short vacation, I got the sense from talking to people that there is overwhelming dissatisfaction with the way the country has been governed by the Republicans. The religious organizations (including the LDS Church, the Roman Catholics and the envangelicals) that are arguing against gay marriage have also been closely allied with the Bush administration. As with Spain, political tides raise or lower more than one boat.
It's way too early to say what will happen in California (as well as unbelievably jinxy), but let's suppose for a moment that gay marriage stays legal in California. The divisiveness over the campaign may push some political centrists out of the Church. Unfortunately, these are exactly the kind of people that the Church needs to maintain its balance and vitality for the next generation. If the Church moves too far rightward politically, it is going to become a fringe group.
I sometimes say fairly critical things about the Church, but at heart I wish it well. I love my Mormon family and friends, and I am completely a product of the LDS environment. I don't want the Church to purge its more mainstream members. I don't want to see the Church, my church, my ancestor's church, become a right-wing fringe group.