Marriage Equality: The Tide Has Turned

Thu. March 1, 2012 12:00 AM
by Waymon Hudson

We have seen a flurry of activity in the fight for full marriage equality for LGBT people over the last few weeks. New York, Maryland, and Washington State all passed marriage equality through the legislature, as did New Jersey (although it was vetoed by Governor Chris Christie). Maine will be voting to allow same-sex marriages in November. We've seen the further dismantling of California's discriminatory Prop 8 by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which affirmed the lower courts decision that said stripping marriage rights from same-sex couples was unconstitutional. And yet another federal court case has come down calling the odious "Defense of Marriage Act" (DOMA) unconstitutional in the Golinski case.

To be sure, things aren't all coming up roses. North Carolina is facing a tough fight against a Amendment 1, which would ban same-sex marriages. Other legislative fights are popping up as well around the country. The GOP leadership in the House of Representatives continues to use our tax dollars to defend DOMA in courts, even though the Obama administration refuses to do so. We've also seen the GOP presidential primary race lurch back into the so-called "culture wars" as the candidates try to out-bigot each other to prove who can be more anti-gay, with talks of federal anti-gay marriage amendments and attacks on LGBT relationships. Yet this re-ignition of wedge issue politics seems to only further illuminate how out-of-touch such regressive views are with the general public.

The tide isn't merely turning when it comes to marriage equality and LGBT rights. The tide has already turned.

With equality issues in the spotlight more and more, we have seen support come from some very unlikely places. While the leadership of the Republican party may want to crow about how anti-gay they are, we've seen conservatives of all stripes push back against the idea of anti-gay bigotry. From conservative commentators like Bill O'Reilly saying the GOP's stance will ultimately doom it with young voters to former vice-president Dick Cheney campaigning for marriage equality in Maryland, the only real wedge these issues are causing are within the conservative side of the political spectrum.

Poll after poll shows that Americans' views on LGBT people and their relationships are rapidly evolving. The majority now support full marriage equality, even within conservative sub-groups like Catholics lay-members. The support of LGBT rights sky-rockets among younger voters, regardless of religion, party affiliation, or geographical factors. Bigoted politicians and anti-gay activists are quite simply behind the times and only further alienate themselves the harder they try to block equal rights for LGBT people.

They are on the wrong side of history and they know it.

Yet this is why we have to fight even harder. Desperate people who know they are losing the fight are perhaps the most dangerous. This is why we are seeing the shocking level of the virulently anti-gay rhetoric being thrown around this political cycle. They have been backed into a corner and are fighting against equality harder than ever, using lies, smears, and bigotry to try to keep their foothold of hate in a changing society.

While the numbers are on our side and continue to grow, equality is not inevitable. We cannot become passive or assume the arc of history will bend towards justice by itself. We must continue to build on the political and social momentum we have to keep pushing forward.

To be clear, our fight will never really be over. We have so much work to do. From bullying protection and employment anti-discrimination laws to transgender rights and economic justice, our work is far from done on so many levels. Small-mindedness and bigotry will never just disappear. It takes to constant vigilance, education, outreach, and work to not only move forward, but to protect the gains we make.