Just because things can be put on the same list doesn't mean they are necessarily similar. My attic contains within it thousands of comic books, an inflatable bed, some jigsaw puzzles, some family pictures and a "Frampton Comes Alive!" album. These things are, roughly speaking, in the same location, but they're hardly of equal value, importance or function.
I bring this up for the simple reason that we're hearing a lot about how the GOP must deal with "abortion and gay marriage" as if they are almost the same issue.
Well, in my house, I hear about my dog and my mortgage a lot. They're both important -- and complicated in their own ways -- but they aren't all that similar.
I think some liberals and some conservatives like to lump all social issues together, at least in part because they find their opponents' positions on them so unfathomable. It's like if an alien showed you a fnerk, a thrampahorn and a zizzenbozzle you'd be forgiven for assuming they're all somehow related to each other.
In fact, for a long time the shorthand for social issues was "God, guns and gays." And a lot of analysts thought they would move all together. It turns out that various social issues stand or fall on their own.
If you'd predicted in the late 1980s that the country would become more pro-life, more pro-gun and more pro-gay the experts would've laughed at you. It drives some older liberals crazy that some young liberals are insufficiently pro-choice and it vexes some older conservatives that some young conservatives are insufficiently anti-gay marriage.
I myself have grown both more pro-life and more sympathetic to gay marriage.
I've been in favor of civil unions for more than a decade -- back when it was considered a left-wing position, not a fallback right-wing one. And I'd probably still prefer civil unions if we had settled on some arrangement that conferred the economic and legal benefits of traditional marriage without calling it marriage. Still, gays have an entirely understandable reluctance to settle for that and, besides, I think the argument over whether or not to call civil unions marriage has been all but lost, though there's a glimmer of hope the decision might eventually be left to the states (which I favor).
As for abortion, my migration has less to do with religious arguments and more to do with my growing distrust of the government. Who is and who isn't a human being with unalienable rights is just about the biggest question there is. And just because the answer is usually obvious -- that guy, not that fly -- only makes it more important.