Many times, familiarity breeds respect.
Look no further than Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, the swing vote and author of the landmark majority opinion affirming same-sex marriage nationwide.
A Ronald Reagan appointee, Kennedy has a vacation house in the Palm Springs area, which the real estate website Trulia says has some of the most heavily concentrated “gayborhoods” in the U.S.
This means that Kennedy, who also has a gay law clerk and was mentored by a semi-closeted gay law school dean in Sacramento, lives in the real world, alongside LGBT friends, neighbors and co-workers. And in that regard he is like most Americans… even the President of the United States.
On his trip to Palm Springs last weekend, President Obama reportedly stayed once again in the Rancho Mirage home of a gay couple.
If the Obamas buy a retirement home in the Desert, as is rumored, it surely will be in part because of the hospitality and good taste of his Thunderbird Heights hosts: Ambassador James Costos and his partner, White House decorator Michael Smith.
That’s a long way from 1953, when President Dwight Eisenhower signed an executive order banning gays and lesbians from working for the federal government. Ike’s edict also forced private companies who did business with the government to fire gay employees.
But this is a very different country.
Some of my best friends…A CBS News poll taken in 2010 found 77% of Americans know someone who is gay or lesbian. That number has surely risen in the years since then, as more people come out of the closet.
None of this, of course, is news to millennials, who have grown up among close gay friends. But it remains a dilemma for Republican presidential candidates, every one of who opposes same-sex marriage, and several of who immediately and aggressively pledged to fight Friday’s ruling.
But their fight is likely to not only turn off Democrats and Independents, but many members of their own party.
The Washington Post earlier this year reported on what the paper called “the most surprising gay marriage poll we’ve seen in a long while.” The survey, by NBC News and Marist College, showed half the likely GOP voters in the early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina say opposition to gay marriage is “unacceptable” in a Republican candidate.
What’s good for business… Their position also puts the Republican candidates at odds with some their biggest financial backers: keeping and attracting customers is why CEOS of 379 U.S. corporations authorized support for the the Supreme Court case seeking marriage equality – a record number of amicus briefs in any case.
It can’t be comfortable for Republican presidential candidates to be at odds with names like ConAgra, Dow Chemical and General Electric? Not to mention millennial sacred shrines like Apple, eBay and Google.
Of course there is more to be done. Twenty-nine states still allow LGBT people to be fired or denied housing simply because they’re gay. To put that another way, thanks to the Supreme Court, a gay person can get legally married in the morning and fired in the afternoon if he or she talks about it. But Friday’s ruling should give new impetus to a bill to rectify that, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
Bottom line: Gays, lesbians — and those 77% who know them — are feeling their power today. What was once called “The love that dare not speak its name” at Oscar Wilde’s indecency trial today won’t keep its mouth shut.
Hank Plante is an Emmy and Peabody-winning journalist who has spent three decades covering California politics for the CBS TV stations in San Francisco and Los Angeles. He is the Palm Springs Bureau Chief of Calbuzz.