Gay marriage is the civil rights issue of our times, the clearest and most blatant example we still have of institutionalised discrimination against a group of peope in our society. In America the battle is primarily being fought state-by-state as progressive chafe at the lack of progress at a Federal level, where the noxious 'Defence of Marriage Act' waits to be repealed.
This has been a one-step-forward, two-steps-back week for same-sex marriage, following in a year of mostly set-backs, starting with the passage on November 4 last year of Proposition 8 which rolled back gay marriage in California and then seeing the same happen in Maine last month. Against the strong hopes of many the New York State Senate on Tuesday rejected a bill already passed in the lower house which would have legalized gay marriage. This is a particular blow given the progressive tilt of New York and the $1 million spent by pro same-sex marriage organizations over the past year. Despite the confidence of many it wasn't even close, going down 38-24.
There was some good news this week though and I'm thrilled to say it was out of Washington DC. Also on Tuesday the DC Council voted 11-2 to legalize same-sex marriage in the District. This is the first of three steps towards full legalization. A second vote is needed in two weeks, likely to pass by the same margin, and then there will be 30 days of Congressional review (because DC doesn't have true democracy) but with a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress it would be very unlikely to be blocked.
This vote has come after months of heated debate. Anti-gay marriage groups (led by the Catholic church) are still advertising on buses in the District but have lost their push to subject same-sex marriage to a public referendum. On November 17 the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics ruled that the issue could not go for a public vote as it does 'not present a proper subject of initiative because it would authorize discrimination prohibited under the Human Rights Act (“HRA”).'
Quite right too, fundamental human rights should not be up for a vote. Discrimination is unconstitutional (not to mention immoral), whatever the majority might feel at this moment in time. This, by the way, is why Australia needs a Human Rights Act.
The next battleground seems to be New Jersey where there is a push for the Democrat-controlled legislature to vote on same-sex marriage within the next few weeks, before the Republican Governor-elect takes office in January.
One step at a time, this issue will go the right way, the arc of history bends towards equality. The bigots are standing against this tide, but they will lose. To see the truth of this you only need to look at this graph:
Moreso even than the normal left-right or red state/blue state divides support for same-sex marriage is determined by age. Even in the most progressive state, Massachusetts, the 65+ age group is less supportive of same-sex marriage than the 18-25 year-olds in the most conservative state, Alabama. It really is only a matter of time. But that's no cause for complacency. Every day that some people are denied rights afforded to the rest of us due to their sexual orientation is a tragedy and a crime.
If you're in the US you can get a free I love love sticker (seen at the top of this post) from Credo Action here.