Gay Marriage: Is conservative support a ‘nightingale’ effect?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Supreme Court on Gay Marriage
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CONSERVATIVES are lining up in support of same-sex marriage, including 131 key Republicans who signed an amicus curiae or friend-of-the-court brief for the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court is hearing cases on same-sex marriage this week.

Are you surprised by this conservative support?

Ken Mehlman, once chair of the Republican National Committee and a George W. Bush staffer, likened it to “nightingale” behavior, in an interview on National Public Radio. The nightingale, he said, only sings at night when other nightingales sing. It’s a kind of bandwagon effect—when support for a cause reaches a tipping point, lots of people join in. Mehlman names Ted Olson, the lawyer who won Bush vs. Gore, as his nightingale. Today, Olson presents the case for same-sex marriage in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the interview, Mehlman outlined the conservative case for same-sex marriage: “…if you believe in freedom, if you believe in limited government, if you believe in family values, then allowing adults who love each other to form families is something that makes a lot of sense.”

I think we also see a “nightingale” or bandwagon effect in public opinion. As more people support legalizing same-sex marriage, it becomes more legitimate and socially acceptable to support same-sex marriage. Those who had been reluctant to speak out now feel safe to do so. And, as we discussed yesterday, many Americans have changed their minds about gay marriage, abandoning the opposition and voicing their support.

What do you make of the conservative support of same-sex marriage?

Do you buy their rationale—freedom, limited government, and family values?

What’s your opinion and why do you have it?


As we did Monday, let’s show readers that we can have a vigorous, civil dialogue.

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