Saturday, October 18, 2014

The speed of change

I stopped posting about the arrival of marriage equality in various US states because things were changing so often that it would have meant posting too often. Lately, the changes have become much faster. So, I’d better post before all 50 states have marriage equality.

The map above is from Wikipedia and shows the current status of marriage equality in the states. Dark blue means marriage for same gender couples is legal, while the deep red/maroon colour indicates the exact opposite: Same gender marriages are banned. At the moment—and moment is a good word!—31 US states and the District of Columbia have marriage equality. A further six US States have had their marriage bans struck down, but those rulings are currently stayed while the appeals process winds down. The likely end of those stays varies, but Wyoming’s ends Thursday US time at the very latest. Together, these 37 states account for about 80% of the US population. Challenges to the remaining states' bans are at various stages.

What all of this means is that marriage equality will be in all 50 US States soon, probably by early next year at the latest. It’s now looking likely that this will happen without the US Supreme Court ever ruling on the Constitutional issues that are at the heart of all the bans being struck down by courts around the country. Not that long ago, no one would have predicted that.

It was a little over ten years ago—May 17, 2004—that marriage equality arrived in Massachusetts, the first state to gain it. It was another four years until the second state, California, gained marriage equality, only to temporarily lose it when voters approved Proposition 8. 2008 turned out to be the turning point, though we didn’t realise it at the time. The loss on Prop 8 galvanised a movement and led to where we are today.

As the chart below shows, from 2008 through 2012, there were usually two states a year that gained marriage equality. But in 2013, eight states gained marriage equality (though Utah temporarily lost it). The pace has continued picking up speed in 2014: So far, fourteen US states have gained marriage equality, and it’ll be fifteen states in a few days when Wyoming joins the list of free states. And that’s with more than two months left to go this year.

Things have happened quickly over the past couple years, but it actually took decades to get to this point. It’s important to remember that. It’s also important to remember that there are far too many places in the world where LGBT people's struggle to live with freedom and dignity is the battle, and marriage equality isn’t even something they can yet dream about.

But as the USA nears the finish line in this struggle, it seems to me that most people are glad to see it end. Obviously the hardcore opponents are unlikely to change very soon, but the softer opposition is clearly moving on. Mainstream Americans seem to be ready for this story to be over, and it soon will be.

This is very good news, indeed.

The map at top of this post is by Lokal_Profil [CC-BY-SA-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons.

The chart lower in the post is by Arthur Schenck [CC-BY-NC-SA NZ 3.0 license].

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