12/08/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Last Word On Proposition 8

In our last post, we vented our frustration with the decision of voters in California, Florida, and Arizona to write anti-gay discrimination into their state constitutions. Clearly, many readers share our sentiments--there is a great deal of anger out there on what is otherwise an exultant day in progressive America.

But we wanted to sound an optimistic note before we go back to writing blogs about science and nature that nobody will read.

The most revealing statistic from the Proposition 8 exit polls is not, as many have argued, that 70% of African Americans voted for it (African Americans constituted only about 6% of the electorate, so to blame Prop 8's passage on black people is to miss the statistical boat by a mile). Rather, we should be focusing on the fact that 61% of voters under 30 voted against the measure, regardless of their race. Break that statistic down further, and you'll see that opposition was strongest among voters under 24. The older the voter, the more likely he or she was to have supported the amendment.

In other words, the generation that is busy inheriting the politisphere strongly favors equal rights for all citizens. The sun is setting on those who would bar their neighbors from participating in our institutions on the basis of race, creed, or sexual orientation. Many people become incrementally more conservative as they age, but for most, their core values will not change radically.

Ironically, the election that brought us Proposition 8 also brought us the most compelling evidence that discriminatory measures like Proposition 8 have a short life expectancy. As Judith Warner noted in her eloquent editorial yesterday, the people for whom race loomed largest in this election tended to be older folks. Sure, young Americans with a sense of history (ourselves included) were deeply touched by the symbolic importance of Obama's victory. We cried a bit, sang a bit, shouted and danced around a bit. But race has just never been as big a deal for us as it was for people of our parents' generation.

So it will go with the struggle against marital discrimination. We shall overcome this, too. The last word will belong to the young people who stood up overwhelmingly against Proposition 8. That doesn't take away any of the sting for the people whose lives have been affected by this ugly turn. But perhaps the inevitability of victory will give strength to those who carry on the fight.