Debra J. Saunders

 That doesn't mean that same-sex marriage is wrong. As Chauncey noted, marriage in the Bible could be defined as a man and his wives and concubines. "One of the reasons marriage has survived as an institution is because it has constantly changed and adapted to changing social realities and moral values," he noted.

 But it does mean Rove has a point about the cultural weight of 5,000 years. As Sen. Dianne Feinstein put it, San Francisco's same-sex marriages were "too much, too fast, too soon."

 Chauncey noted, "I think all 11 of these (state) referenda initiatives to ban gay marriage passed because there still hasn't been enough time for discussion and for people to understand the reality of lesbian and gay lives and why gay and lesbian couples need the protection that marriage, and only marriage, confers."

 The reasons? Many real-life couples must go without Social Security survivor benefits, immigration considerations and other benefits of marriage.

 The point of this column: Advocates should stop dismissing everyone who is against same-sex marriage as homophobic or hate-filled. Exit polls showed that 27 percent of voters support same-sex marriage, while another 35 percent support civil unions. These numbers tell you that it is only a matter of time before federal laws recognize the legal rights of gay and lesbian couples.

 That is, of course, unless the intolerance of the gay-marriage lobby chases would-be supporters away. When activists frame all opponents to same-sex marriage as bigots and haters, they show themselves to be intolerant of those whose deeply held religious convictions tell them same-sex marriage is wrong.

 In 2000, I voted against Proposition 22 because I believe in the benefits of marriage, for gays and straights. But the reaction to this election chills me and makes me wonder if it makes more sense for advocates to push for civil-union legislation now, and marriage later, when the public is ready.

 It doesn't help when advocates demonize those who hesitate to change laws that have existed for a long time and that shape American families. It doesn't help when they blame Bush voters for sentiments also shared by Kerry voters. It doesn't help because it shows America that same-sex marriage advocates, who complain about being demonized, are happy to demonize GOP voters when it suits their purposes.

Debra J. Saunders

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