The Decade's Rise of Gay Marriage

Brown charged that supporters of gay marriage have said for so long that most Americans support their cause that they actually started to believe it, even as a majority of states approved Constitutional amendments that suggested otherwise.

"In California when they lost, they just could not believe it," he said. "I think it sent shockwaves through the movement."

The failure of Maine to approve same sex marriage, Brown said, just solidified Prop 8's victory.

"Maine made clear that California was not just a blip on the map," he said.

Attitudes Warming Toward Gay Community

Kevin Cathcart, executive director of Lambda Legal Defense Fund, which brought its first gay marriage lawsuit in the early 1990s, said that while he's grateful for the gains they've made, "I probably would have thought by today that we would be further ahead than where we are."

"There have been enormous social shifts in the last decades, but including in this last decade," he said. "But for a lot of people, marriage is still a big stumbling block because marriage is identified with religion and with sacrament."

Sprigg said his concerns are not about the plight of individual same-sex marriages, but about the effect they could have on society as a whole, undermining a tradition that has stood for centuries.

"Marriage is a public institution because of the role it plays in the reproduction of the human race and providing that mother and father will together raise the children produced by their union," he said.

Spring said he has seen research that indicates that gay partners are less likely to enter into long-term relationships and, if they do, have high rates of infidelity.

"If homosexual relationships are granted a public affirmation that comes with being called marriages then actually it will undermine society's commitment, society's understanding of the commitment, of sexual fidelity," he said.

Chrisler, who married her wife five years ago soon after Massachusetts made same-sex marriage legal, said research shows the Americans' attitudes have grown more supportive of LGBT families since the 1990s, even if more people still oppose gay marriage than support it.

Recent Pew Research Center data showed that 65 percent of those polled opposed gay marriage in 1996 while 27 percent of supported it. By 2009, the split had narrowed to 54 percent opposed, 35 percent in support.

An April 2009 ABC News/Washington Post poll, however, found gay marriage supporters outnumbering opponents, 49 percent to 46 percent, for the first time in the poll's history.

Chrisler pointed that even gays and lesbians have changed their attitudes in the last 10 years, accepting their sexual orientation as just one part of their identity rather than the whole.

For gays and lesbians, she said, the 1990s were all about marches and National Coming Out Day.

"I think what happened is that over time we as a community have learned to wear our multiple identities in every aspect of our lives," she said.

That, combined with a more relaxed attitude on television and in the media toward LGBT characters, has made a significant impact on how non-LGBT people view them.

Ellen DeGeneres lost her sitcom after kissing another woman in primetime, she noted. Now DeGeneres is an Emmy-award winning talk show host and it's no longer uncommon to see LGBT couples in intimate relationships on TV or in the movies.

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