The second of two landmark gay rights cases is before the Supreme Court today, but supporters of marriage equality can take heart even if the decisions don't go their way, says New York Times stats whiz Nate Silver. Support for gay marriage hasn't surged recently, he finds, but it has been steadily increasing since around 2004 and supporters are almost certain to be in the majority nationwide soon. Gay marriage would probably have lost in a national referendum last year, but would narrowly win in 2016, according to Silver's projections.
The steady rise in support means ballot initiatives to legalize gay marriage would succeed in 32 states by 2016 and in 44 states by 2020, with support above 48% in every state except Alabama and Mississippi, Silver projects. It is "the steadiness of the trend that makes same-sex marriage virtually unique among all major public policy issues, and which might give its supporters more confidence that the numbers will continue to break their way regardless of what the Supreme Court decides," he writes. (Click for Silver's full column.) Bill O'Reilly is also surveying the landscape, and Politico reports that he agrees that the wind is at the back of gay marriage advocates: "The compelling argument is on the side of homosexuals," he said on his show last night; they "just want to be treated like everybody else. The other side hasn’t been able to do anything but thump the Bible." (Read more gay rights stories.)