But while same-sex marriage is legal in six states — Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont — and Washington D.C., 30 states have adopted constitutional amendments banning it, and voters in nine other states have approved statutory bans.

Those laws suggest that the numbers shown by Pew and Field Poll are bogus, says Frank Schubert. Schubert is the consultant behind Prop. 8 and marriage bans in Maine and North Carolina. He's running four campaigns this fall for the National Organization for Marriage, either banning same-sex marriage or fighting marriage-equality initiatives in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington state.

To date, Schubert hasn't lost a campaign. But this is the first time he's worked four at once. Volunteers and signatures have been easy to come by, but fundraising has been tough. NOM is "stretched thin" by the effort, he says.

Hank Donat (left) and Jeffrey Halpern, married in 2008, 
found themselves on the front 
page of the New York Times.
Norma Cordova
Hank Donat (left) and Jeffrey Halpern, married in 2008, found themselves on the front page of the New York Times.
Stuart Gaffney and John Lewis got married in 2004, and then helped shape the current movement when their marriage license was revoked a month later.
Norma Cordova
Stuart Gaffney and John Lewis got married in 2004, and then helped shape the current movement when their marriage license was revoked a month later.

"I don't agree there's growing support for same-sex marriage. What you see in these polls is a reflection of how questions are asked. We're seeing questions such as, 'Should same-sex marriage be legal or illegal?' That's a biased question." He also predicts that once more Millennials reach marrying age, they'll prefer heterosexual definitions of marriage.

While Schubert and NOM are sticking with the scare tactics that have worked for the past 12 years — such as claiming that children will be forced to learn about same-sex marriage in kindergarten — Equality California is testing another grassroots approach to fighting back. Lately, it's experimenting with a concept called "breakthrough conversation," in which LGBT people point out to friends and family — people who already consider themselves egalitarian — instances where they're not treating others equally.

"It's not confrontational, but if you call someone on those incidents, the likelihood is that they can be persuaded to change their attitudes and realize LGBT people are not being treated fairly," Davidson says.

But conservatives, too, have subtly altered — and complicated — their approaches.

Dan Cathy, the chief operating officer of fast-food chain Chick-fil-A, made headlines when he told the Baptist Press in July that he supports the "Biblical definition of the family unit." In the subsequent furor, same-sex marriage opponents lined up for chicken sandwiches and waffle fries while LGBT groups staged "kiss-ins" at restaurants nationwide.

Officials with Chick-fil-A announced in mid-September that the company would not give further money to political or social campaigns, though they weren't specific about campaigns related to same-sex marriage. The chain would, however, continue donating to programs that "strengthen families and enrich marriages." A week later, employee Steve Cammett publicly resigned, saying the company had become "a safe place for people to hate."

In the months leading up to the 2012 election, the Republican Party reaffirmed its dedication to marriage as a "sacred contract," its code for "heterosexual." "Defending marriage against an activist judiciary" is also part of the 2012 GOP platform — a telling phrase, given the same-sex marriage cases facing the Supreme Court. However, the only speaker to mention the topic onstage during the Republican National Convention in August was Mike Huckabee.

All this pushback may be having the opposite effect. A state's act of banning same-sex marriage, paradoxically, seems to call out new advocates.

Scott Barclay, a public-policy scholar with UCLA's Williams Institute, which researches law and policy on sexual orientation, studied 13 states where voters approved same-sex marriage bans. In every case, support for LGBT causes rose immediately after such votes. Barclay attributes the effect to increased activism, as well as a kind of buyer's remorse: Legislating inequality tends to bring people off the fence.

In San Francisco, activism comes from one other, perhaps less likely, source: City Attorney Dennis Herrera's office. After each marriage-equality setback, "the emotional devastation that people felt — I'm seeing this in people's faces — it was demoralizing," he says. That prompted his office to jump into the legal fight. It's been in every battle since, from protecting San Francisco's 2004 marriages to petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court not to hear the Prop. 8 case this fall.

"Public opinion on same-sex marriage is changing faster than on any other civil-rights movement in history," says sociologist Taylor. "We think it's partly because of the movement, and the embracing of visibility strategies," such as gays coming out of the closet and onto the front page of the New York Times.

All of this has come at a price. Some gays worry that marriage has eclipsed other LGBT activism. Nearly half of those who married in San Francisco in 2004 said they stopped giving time to other causes in order to focus their attention on the marriage fight, Taylor says. Activism swallowed up parts of their lives in much the same way Donat's home became a base for the marriage fight.

But post-Prop. 8 activism is now resonating at a national level.

This fall, the U.S. Supreme Court has the option to hear — or decline to hear — a number of cases challenging same-sex-marriage bans. That includes the Prop. 8 case, now called Hollingsworth v. Perry, as well as several others challenging aspects of the Defense of Marriage Act — particularly Section 3, which defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman.

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My Voice Nation Help

I am a fervent supporter of marriage equality - I was the 'best man' for my dearest friend when he married his husband, once in a 'commitment ceremony' and once at City Hall when it was legal, and they are the most committed, loving couple I know, and I"m proud that they are the godparents for my teenage sons.  Moreover, like all good Jewish mothers, I secretly hope one of my sons turns out to be gay (because he'll never replace me with another woman, and he'll help me shop!)  So the stakes in this election are high (particularly since as a woman, a Jew, and an advocate of marriage equality, I feel triply dissed by the right . . . , which is why I recorded, "It's A Scary Time To Be A Jewish Mother", the first in my series of youTube political comedy songs . . .  enjoy!



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