We often observe that America's morality keeps evolving -- but we've never seen a transformation as swift as the snowballing U.S. acceptance of gays and same-sex marriage.
Just a half-century ago, it was still a felony to be gay in West Virginia. Anyone caught in same-sex behavior could be sent to the ancient stone prison at Moundsville. But gay sex was legalized in the 1970s when state morals laws were revised.
Ever since, public tolerance of homosexuals has risen. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down old-time laws against "sodomy" nationwide in 2003. The U.S. military first accepted gays on a "don't ask, don't tell" basis -- but this hush-hush requirement was removed under President Obama in 2010. Numerous states and cities passed human rights and hate crimes changes to protect gays from discrimination and beatings.
Now, with amazing speed, fundamentalist and Republican opposition is being defeated nationally and locally. In June, the Supreme Court weakened the GOP-passed Defense of Marriage Act, which had outlawed federal recognition of same-sex wedlock. Across America, gay marriage has become legal in 18 states, with attempts pending in many other states.
Three couples sued to wipe out West Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage. Naturally, Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey leaped into court to defend the ban. But we think he and other conservatives will lose eventually, because the tide of history is running strongly toward tolerance.
Shaggy-bearded members of the "Duck Dynasty" reality show, which has 14 million viewers, belong to a hidebound Louisiana church that declares gays wicked. Duck Dynasty leader Phil Robertson gave a GQ magazine interview in which he denounced homosexuals in vulgar terms.
The A&E network suspended him from the popular program -- but Republicans such as Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared that Robertson should have "free speech" to assail gays as much as he wants. As soon as A&E realized how much money it was losing, it restored the show.Hassles like these undoubtedly will continue -- but most mainstream Americans are moving steadily toward granting full democratic equality to gays. Old-time hatred and contempt are disappearing quickly, except among far-right evangelicals and political conservatives. It's the fastest shift in the U.S. culture we've ever seen.