USA: What Next for Marriage Equality?

Written by scott on July 4th, 2013

Gay WeddingMore thoughts and speculation on where we are now and where we go from here.

Kim Thompson at Slate Magazine points out that more than two thirds of the US still doesn’t have marriage equality:

By ruling that the case challenging Proposition 8 was not brought properly before the court, the Supreme Court relegalized gay marriage for 38 million people who live in California. Despite their victories, the above chart shows that gay rights activists have a long way to go before the U.S. joins countries such as Canada, Brazil, and Sweden in accepting gay marriage nationwide. Nearly two-thirds of the U.S. population, or 219 million people, still live in states where gay marriage is illegal, and many of those states (35, to be exact) even have anti-gay-marriage laws or constitutional amendments prohibiting it.

Richard Kim at the Nation looks at how we got here:

Gay marriage isn’t winning the day because of some singularly persuasive legal argument; it’s winning because the battleground has shifted from the court of law to the court of public opinion. Consider this: the first four states to legalize same-sex marriage did so under court edict; the next nine states plus DC did so through the democratic legislative process. This shift has been a salutary one for the gay rights movement. It was forced to frame its arguments in broadly populist rhetoric about fairness and equality, to empower its base as protagonists and not passive recipients. It also necessitated a turn away from the “marriage” part of the equation and toward the “gay,” which is to say that the cause has become less about the rights and responsibilities of marriage and more about equal citizenship. And let’s face it: on a certain base level, it was a referendum on the idea that gay is cool.

The Arizona Daily Star looks back at one particular activist’s quest for marriage equality:

Evan Wolfson received a “B” on the law school paper that helped change the world. It was 1983 and Wolfson, submitting the paper required of all third-year students at Harvard Law School, had chosen a topic – constitutional protection for same-sex marriage – so far-fetched that some of the distinguished scholars he had asked to serve as faculty advisers declined. “The more prominent, more liberal ones who one would have thought would have been most supportive were not,” Wolfson recalled in an interview. “It’s not that they were against it – I think they didn’t see it as that important or that likely to happen and in some cases a little bit trivial.”

Wolfson is now the head of Freedom to Marry, one of the groups who has been instrumental in moving marriage equality forward in the US.

Bridget Blasius at the Daily Camera muses on gay marriage vs. marriage:

There is marriage…and then there’s “gay” marriage. Why must any loving union between committed partners come with this qualifier, which sets it apart from the assumed default? Is this really the idea that the Daily Camera wishes to convey? Is this really the term that your writers should be using? I suspect that the phrase “Gay Marriage” will be all but phased out, in the next few years. I would love to see the writers of the Daily Camera participate actively, in phasing it out. Let’s stop talking about “Gay Marriage,” while we keep conversations going about marriage equality and civil rights.

And going forward, Mark Lee at The Washington Blade thinks businesses may be instrumental in the fight from here on out:

For businesses, the extraordinary burden and expense associated with administering a constantly evolving set of inconsistent rules will be massive. Tending to complicated regulatory schematics classifying different employees in varying locales in disparate ways has already created a new industry to provide guidance in the wake of the expected ruling. Enterprise support has helped fuel the expansion of marriage equality among states. Business knows well the importance of equitable treatment for talent recruitment and employee satisfaction. It won’t be long until divergent policy administration affecting private sector wages and benefits will lead to sharply intensified corporate calls for nationwide conformity on marriage. Government will hope to avoid suffering the anger of those tasked with arcane management of unequal application.

One by one we have knocked down the barriers – first, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Then Defense of Marriage Act and Prop 8. With each victory, energy that had been diverted to those fights is added to the remaining fights going forward – just look at all the energy that’s now going into marriage equality from our out LGBT servicemembers that used to be taken up by DADT. We get stronger, and they get weaker.


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