12.11.12 4:45 PM ET
The Freedom to Marry
A must-read report from Molly Ball on the remarkable victories for same sex marriage contains this deeply moving passage (and I'll have more later on this wonderful piece):
Simon's sessions could be wrenching. A participant in one focus group had been screened as a soft opponent of gay marriage, yet she spent half an hour sounding very supportive. She talked enthusiastically about her affection for the gay people in her daily life, including gay coworkers and a lesbian sister-in-law. "Finally, I said to her, 'When we called you, you said you were undecided or leaning against [gay marriage]. Did we make a mistake?'" Simon recalled. "She looked at me and she stopped, and she said, 'No, no, no.' Then she started crying, and she said, 'I want to be for this. But I'm afraid I'm going to burn in hell.'"
Simon found many voters were struggling as painfully as that woman with the issue of gay marriage. Their "undecided" status didn't come from a lack of feelings on the issue. They were powerfully conflicted, caught between two deep-seated sentiments: On the one hand, a desire to be fair and compassionate toward their fellow man; on the other, a loyalty to what they saw as the ironclad teachings of religion, tradition, or culture.
"These were not mean people, not bigots, not bad people," said Thalia Zepatos, who, as Freedom to Marry's director of public engagement, spent 2010 synthesizing a massive amount of marriage-related research -- collating nearly 100 different surveys, studies, exit polls and focus groups from every state that had considered the issue, including new research the group commissioned. "As long as they'd ever thought about marriage, they'd had a certain image of what it meant, and now all of a sudden we were asking them to expand that," she said. "They had questions that deserved to be answered."