The Straight Line

The Straight Line: A cultural shift

The results from the 2010 Census in Utah are in, and they provide some interesting information. According to the Census, roughly one in every 150 households in Utah is headed by a gay or lesbian couple. Additionally, approximately one-third of these 5,814 households include children under the age of 18. Between 2000 and 2010 the number of same-sex households increased by 73 percent in Utah, while the overall population increased by only 25 percent.

I think these numbers represent something far more interesting than just statistics: They represent a changing attitude in our society. While there are still those that are outspokenly homophobic, we see more and more people not only willing to come out, but also more and more people being accepting of gay people, gay couples and gay parents in our society.

While I’m sure that there are more same-sex couples living in Utah today than there were 10 years ago, I sincerely doubt that there are 73 percent more. What I see in this is that more people are willing to acknowledge that they are in same-sex relationships, there is less fear of social stigma and ostracism than there was 10 years ago. This is the real bright spot to this news, that there is less fear and more acceptance from society as a whole.

Social change, unfortunately, is a time-consuming process. It took years of effort before women were allowed to vote in this country, and even more time for the passage of meaningful civil-rights legislation with respect to people of color. Many will argue (and rightfully so, in my opinion) that equality between the sexes and the races still doesn’t truly exist in this country. There are still notable cases of bigotry that exist and that is for one simple reason: you can’t legislate a change in attitude.

What we can legislate, however, is a change in the way people are treated under law. The law should recognize everyone as inherently equal and provide the same rights, privileges, protections and responsibilities to everyone under law. As laws change, so will attitudes. For every new bigot there will be 10 open-minded people, then 20, then 100.

The key to real and lasting social change is to never quit and never hide. If we want to see change, we need to stand up for it, to make society recognize our beliefs and our values. There will be times when the voices of opposition are so deafeningly loud that it feels hopeless, but that is the proverbial “darkest point before dawn.” As we get closer and closer to our goals, the voices of the bigots will grow louder and more desperate.

What we’re seeing now is a real changing of the tide in people’s attitudes toward same-sex relationships, marriages and families. The “traditionalist” elements within our society maintain, and will continue to maintain, their opposition, but the rank and file of the population is moving toward acceptance. Once that tide takes hold, nothing will be able to stop it.

Will Utah recognize same-sex marriage by the time the next Census comes around? I’d love to see it happen, and I will be working toward that alongside other activists in this community. We’ll work to change those laws, and with that work will come a change in attitudes. History proves that sooner or later equality will happen, let’s work together to make it sooner, rather than later.

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