Saturday, June 25, 2011

A huge victory for justice

Today, New York became the sixth US state to enact marriage equality (the video above is of the announcement of the vote totals in the state senate). This is a very big deal for many reasons, including population numbers and what those numbers mean for the country.

The five states that had marriage equality before today were: Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, plus the District of Columbia, which is not a state. They had a total population (figures as of April 1, 2010) of 15,712,015, or 5.09% of the total population of the US including the District of Columbia.

New York’s population is 19,378,102, so 35,090,117, or 11.36% of the US population, now live where there is full marriage equality. New York singlehandedly more than doubled the number of Americans who live in free states.

In addition, a total of 23,883,704 Americans (or 7.73%) live in the four partly free states with civil unions, but not marriage equality. Those four states are: Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois and New Jersey.

So, as of today, 58,973,821 Americans (19.10%) live in states with strong official recognition of same sex relationships, either full marriage or civil unions.

Three states—California, Maine and Washington—have “domestic partnership” laws, but they offer significantly fewer rights and protections than civil unions, which is why they aren’t counted when talking about partnership recognition for same sex couples. Nevertheless, 45,306,857 Americans (14.67%) are covered by domestic partnership laws of some sort, and that’s more than the percentage who now have marriage equality.

If we count domestic partnerships along with civil unions and full marriage equality, there are now 104,280,678 Americans—33.77%, more than a third—who live in states with at least some protections for same-sex couples. When California’s Proposition 8 is finally overturned and marriage equality is restored there, three-quarters of those 104,280,678 Americans will live in states with full marriage equality (which goes to show what a big deal California is, too).

All of these numbers ultimately mean one thing: The tide in the US has turned, and the country is moving rapidly toward embracing full marriage equality. We’ll now see the anti-gay industry re-doubling their efforts, shouting louder, lying more outrageously and defaming GLBT people at every opportunity. As their losses mount, they’ll resort to desperation tactics, which, ironically, will hasten their final defeat by showing mainstream Americans how crazy the anti-gay industry really is.

So, the victory in New York is important for many reasons: The freedom it brings to New Yorkers, the symbolism of such a large state becoming a free state, and the fact that it means a third of Americans live in a state with at least some formal recognition for same-sex couples. For all these reasons, this is a huge victory for justice.

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