Op-ed: How do you change the deeply held beliefs of a nation? Here’s one strategy.

The transformation over the last 20 years in how Americans view gay people is the result of one of the most successful social justice movements of modern time.
How did we build this broad social consensus that it is wrong to discriminate against gay people and unfair to exclude same-sex couples from the freedom to marry? The chief engine of this extraordinary change has been the wider discussion, greater visibility and increased awareness of shared values, understanding and empathy generated by the freedom to marry movement.

After some losses and blows to our efforts, we decided to overhaul the messaging in 2010. Working with partner organizations and movement supporters, we combined polling data research with the lessons learned through experience to figure out what messages and messengers could help build the majority we were seeking.

Research showed us that we had to shift our emphasis from abstract talk of rights and benefits to more personal connections tied to values. We had to touch the heart as well as the mind. Rather than focusing on, for example, how exclusion from marriage can mean denial of health coverage, Social Security or other critical legal protection, we talked more about the love and commitment that are at the heart of the desire to marry for gay and non-gay couples alike. We needed to highlight our connectedness. Read More