There has been a huge shift in public opinion about same-sex marriage over the past decade and the number one reason people say they changed their mind is because they know personally know someone who is a homosexual. From Pew Research:

3-20-13 #3

People came out of the closet about their sexuality helped breed acceptance which in turn made it even easier for other people to come out. The process has been a self reinforcing cycle through our society.

While events like Sen. Rob Portman’s (R-OH) reverse of same-sex marriage may make it self evident how important people coming out of the closet has been for the fight for marriage equality, it is a lesson activists across a range of issue should always keep in mind.

Whether it is marijuana policy, government funding for particular disease funding, immigration reform, or equal pay; personally knowing someone who has directly impacted by the issue has a big impact on what positions people take. For example, merely having more daughters seems to have a noticeable impact on how members of Congress vote on women’s issues.

Family and friends talking honestly about their experiences makes a powerful impression on the people they know. Personal familiarity is one of the strongest tools for change minds.