Shifting tides: will New York’s media and cultural influence make a difference?

By Samantha Peltz, Freedom to Marry's Communications Intern 
In the wake of the recent passage of marriage in New York, activists on both sides have been speculating about the bill’s potential influence on public discourse.  Gay rights activists say that New York has the ability to shift the tide of popular culture towards the freedom to marry through the media.  The belief is that New York is a cultural hub capable of wielding its considerable influence to sway the greater American public.  Our very own political director Sean Eldridge, emphasizes New York’s position as a trendsetter for the rest of the country, saying “by just being…a center for the economy and a center for media, that's going to make a difference and help move public opinion in this issue across the country.”  

Some opponents of marriage deny that New York can have any such influence over the rest of the country.  However, opponents are worried that the shift in the Empire State may cast them in an increasingly negative light.  Focus on the Family spokeswoman, Carrie Gordon Earll says that now “my position is defined as anti-gay or anti-equality…so if you have that coming out of New York, that's a major influence over other media in the nation and those who consume that media."  

The effect of regular contact with gay characters through these media outlets over the last fifteen years cannot be denied.  The increasing portrayal of gay families on television shows such as the sitcom, “Modern Family,” breeds familiarity among Americans who otherwise may not come into contact with members of the LGBT community on a regular basis.  On the show, a gay couple with an adopted child is portrayed among two straight couples.  In this instance, being gay takes a backseat to everyday struggles to which any family could relate.  The ability to relate to this couple with the disarming backdrop of comedy may be enough to get Americans thinking.   

Regardless of media influence, New York certainly represents a step towards growing a majority; the number of gay Americans who live in states that have ended marriage discrimination more than doubled from 16 million to 35 million as a result of the New York victory. One tangible effect of the recent bill is the increased momentum and hope it lends to the movement for marriage equality.  The air of Speculation that the passage of marriage in New York could cause a domino effect among other states in the region is rampant.  

This story brings up an important question. Weigh-in: is the media leading the shift in opinion or is it merely observing and reporting on an increasing acceptance of the freedom to marry by the American public?