I had a lot of things come up over the course of the thread, so I'll try to summarize some points that occurred to me.
We do not have a direct democracy in the United States. Direct democracy is a situation where the voters vote directly on the issues. We have a representative democracy, where we elect representatives to vote on the issues for us. And these representatives can differ in their policies, some believing they should espouse the views of their constituents, and some believe they should be role models and vote on policies how they personally feel they should be voted on.
In cases where voters vote directly on the issues, a voter-related way this comes about is because of popular initiative. This is when the voters obtain a given percentage of signatures to get an issue on the ballot. Not all states in the United States allow this. California does have popular initiative. My state, Indiana, does not. An issue can get on the ballot here because the legislature want us to vote on it, but we can't put it there ourselves.
As to judges, in the United States we have a separation of church and state. The two contrasting ideas of judges mostly range to opinions that judges should take it upon themselves to disregard the exact text of the laws and instead try to obtain the overall meaning within the boundary of what is lawful or unlawful, to the idea that judges should follow the letter of the law exactly and leave the interpretation up to the legislature. This does *not* mean that judges should make policy based on what is right or is not right. It shows a lack of true education and understanding about our judicial system and our governmental system in general to vilify them for *not* going against a key facet of what our nation was founded on.
I also have to disagree with the idea that marriage has for 3000 years been about a man and a woman coming together and agreeing to raise children together. Women for quite a long time were the property of their husbands and alignment between men and women came down to politics and gaining status and power in society. One of my favorite genres is Regency romance novels, although they are completely historically inaccurate. People didn't marry at that time for love. They married to raise their status in society. And it was a trend that had been in place for centuries and is far from dead in the present time.
As to the issue that began this thread, I've seen some good examples of words and phrases that have made their way into mainstream cultural jargon but I think we're focusing on far too offensive words. It's very hard to be objective about racially derogatory terms, no matter how accepted they may have been at one time. But let me try a different example, blatantly stolen from Penn and Teller's Bullshit! if anyone has seen the show.
Take the phrase "Holy cow!" I personally have used this myself, especially when I was a child and could not say the naughtier alternative. I am in no way hateful toward the Hindu faith, nor was I when I was a child. My family was not hateful toward the Hindu faith, and I frankly didn't even know what it was until a long time after this phrase had become part of my personal vernacular.
But this could be offensive to someone of the Hindu faith. I appear to be mocking their belief that the cow is a sacred animal. Yet because this phrase has ingrained itself so heavily in some societies, hardly an eye is batted when the phrase is uttered.
I feel the "That's so gay!" phrase has received a similar treatment. Its expression doesn't indicate any particular underlying hatred. It's merely something that many have heard and, as people can resemble magpies in many ways, repeat under the same circumstances. That's not to say I don't find it unfortunate. I find many things people in society do unfortunate. But attributing a false motivation to anyone who says the phrase without also examining the context is unfairly labeling said person as something they may or may not be without providing adequate evidence.
That said, I felt the OP started off on the completely wrong foot for being angry at a generalization that was felt to be made over a phrase, yet near the end of the post made a generalization about an entire country of people. I personally am against generalizations period. I feel that everyone should be identified by their own merits, not the "clubs" they belong to within the population, whether they're the popular ones or the unpopular ones. For me, I do not identify myself as a white female heterosexual carnivorous computer programmer, but instead I consider myself a fair, loyal, honest, just and polite human being.
I think that's also why I think political bi-partisanship is one of the roots of all evil, but that's another thread