When the Supreme Court holds hearings on Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act this week, Chief Justice Roberts' gay cousin will be in attendance. This is symbolic of the place we've reached as a country. While Roberts wrestles with his decision, he will have the benefit of understanding that people in the LGBT community are responsible members of society who just want the same rights as the rest of us. And we, the public, also know, through personal experience, that Roberts himself was recommended to the bench by a halfwit who thought Jesus Christ actually told him to launch a preemptive war on Iraq.
The effect is undeniable. Back in 2009, Andrew Sullivan cited Gallup research that showed how being acquainted with a gay person made one more likely to favor same-sex marriage rights. And watching a parade of scary old men openly air their opinions on rape and abortion caused much of the electorate to decide they didn't want them to be in politics ever again.
With increased openness, you can encounter gay people or conservatives anywhere. You might meet a coworker's partner at a company lunch, say, or have a longtime friend post a picture of an aborted fetus on your Facebook page. Maybe an older relative finally has the courage to express himself - and he either tells you he's going to start dating, or he sends you a racist email about the president.
However these things happen, millions of people across the country are getting more accurate images of both groups. They understand a gay person is a well-adjusted man or woman who happens to be attracted to people of the same gender. And they understand a conservative is someone who doesn't believe in climate change, and maybe not even evolution, and enjoys hoarding weapons and highlighting the scariest parts of Atlas Shrugged.
The way forward, in both cases, is clear. Gay people should be proud of who they are. They should feel free to talk honestly, even bluntly. Conservatives should really, really do the opposite. They need to pull the plug on CPAC and encourage Michele Bachmann to build that compound she's probably sketched out. They need to fight those feelings they have about contraceptives and the gold standard. They're not right. They're not natural.
They need to find a deep, dark closet and just cram themselves in there. For good.