Referendums like California's now-infamous Proposition 8 (or 'Prop 8,' for those with a negative position on the suffix 'position') are arguably born from a singular belief. It plays out as such: prohibiting gay couples from tying the knot will aid in preserving the conventional definition of marriage, and quite possibly the delicate fabric of society.
A provocative bit of conjecture to be sure, and one that to date, has intermittently held up in a court of law.
Ah, but does it hold up in a court of science? Can such a hypothesis submit to the rigors of double-blind experiments? Placebo concurrent control groups? Allocation concealment? Permuted block randomization?
To quote a guy I saw quoting Shakespeare the other day, "Aye, there's the rub." 'Cause here's the thing. If America wanted to spend its time nerdily obsessing about sciency stuff, it would mosey down to the Social Security office and change its name to Switzerland.
For better or for worse, the U.S. is a nation modeled on business and commerce. As such, there is one particular process that can allow Americans to determine, with a high degree of accuracy, whether or not same-sex marriage would cause a potential maelstrom of societal turmoil. That process?
Allow me to elaborate. You know how towns like Greensboro, North Carolina will have weird shit on their McDonalds menus that the rest of the nation doesn't? Like the McOstrich Deluxe or the Samurai Grimace Wasabi Shake or whatever? That's because Greensboro is a test market, a.k.a. a geographic area specifically chosen to assess the feasibility of a product or service before a potential wide-scale roll-out.
Armed with this information, you're likely thinking, "Come on. Same-sex marriage is a far greater issue than a new kind of burger/dairy beverage combo, as groundbreakingly delicious as that burger/dairy beverage combo might be." And you'd be right. Which is why, when it comes to this watershed issue of our time, one riddled with potentially divisive implications, America has a much larger, more comprehensive test market at its disposal.
It's called Canada.
Here's the skinny. On July 20th, 2005, America's upstairs neighbor became the first country on the continent to legalize nationwide same-sex marriage. Accordingly, this has provided over three years of marketing data from which to cull. Quite the haul indeed.
Now, does such a feat automatically make my home country a potential test market for this issue? Certainly not. Because industry analysts believe a cogent test market must possess all three of the following characteristics:
1. A population demographically similar to the proposed target market.
No sweat on this one. Excluding the seven percent of us that pronounce "out and about" as "oot and aboot," Canadians are essentially stealth Americans. We sound like the cast of 30 Rock when we speak. Minus Kenneth the NBC page. In fact, the so-called 'American' complimenting your golf score or covertly schtupping your spouse could be one of us for all you know. Let's be frank: it likely is.
2. Relative isolation from populated media markets so that advertising to the test audience can be optimally efficient.
We're good here too. Sure, some U.S.-based ads find their way up to Canada. But on the whole, Canadians remain blissfully unaware of many American goods and services. Bennigan's? Hostess Fruit Pies? The Ronco 5-Tray Electric Food Dehydrator? We know not of such things.
3. An opportunity for prospective customers to see and/or experience a product firsthand.
Easy peasy. Because as noted, Canada has now spent an inordinate amount of time soaking its hands in the dishwashing liquid of same-sex marriage. This has given us ample opportunity for 'testing out the merchandise,' to use one of the better double-entendre marketing terms.
And so, with these concerns allayed, it's time to present the hotly anticipated reveal of the Big Gay Test Market Hypothesis. Has same-sex marriage caused Canada's age-old matrimonial construct to dissolve, effectively becoming a mockery of its former self? Can Canadian males now marry anything from birch trees to chatroom bots to assorted household appliances? Have Canadian women made good on their longstanding threat to boot men from the nuptial equation entirely, opting instead to wed each other in ultra-private (and assumingly ultra-sexy) ceremonies?
Or has an alternate scenario occured, where Canada has evolved into a Utopian nation of civil liberties, where society has embraced all creeds, colors, genders and sexual orientations as equal? Essentially, the kind of place an away team would visit on a second-to-third-season Star Trek episode.
As tempting as it would be to blindly tack one of these two Hollywood endings onto my country's history, the integrity of the test marketing data must be upheld. So without further delay, here's the no-holds-barred truth about what legalized same-sex marriage has done to Canada:
Not a whole heck of a lot.
In fact, things are pretty much exactly the same as before the law was passed. Hockey has remained the greatest sport created by man. It's still soul-crushingly cold up here between October and April (read: May). And we continue to hold the patent to that pretty cool robot arm thing on the Space Shuttle.
The only difference now is that, on occasion, we'll come across a dude who'll say, "Hey, meet my husband Miguel," instead of "Hey, meet my partner Miguel."
That's it. Otherwise, it's entirely business as usual up here. And with the looming recession and myriad of other challenges facing this shared continent of ours, 'business as usual' is a rather decent term. In fact, it's pretty darn comforting, no?