Tuesday, May 14, 2013

An idea’s time has come

Today Minnesota became the 12th US state to enact the freedom to marry, and the state’s governor will sign it into law tomorrow (the graphic comes from the governor’s office). That makes three states in two weeks! In fact, there have been so many countries and US states enacting marriage equality in such a very short time that I've actually lost count (no joke).

Marriage equality is an idea whose time has come, and the increasing ferocity of the rhetoric of our adversaries underscores the point: They’ve lost the war and they know it. It’s made them frantic, desperate to try and find some way to stop the inevitable, but, as Victor Hugo put it, "Armies cannot stop an idea whose time has come."

Not at all long ago, victory seemed impossibly far off. For years, our opponents’ tactics of lying, scaremongering and sowing division among the coalition on our side of the war worked exactly as they intended, and they kept winning all the battles. But in May of last year, President Obama announced he supported the freedom to marry and Democratic politicians—and a couple Republicans—started tripping over themselves to declare that they, too, supported it.

November happened: Five out of five ballot victories for our side, including the first time we’d won the freedom to marry at the ballot box—in three states! More politicians jumped on board. Since then, the freedom to marry has passed numerous times, though not all of them are yet law. Some Republican leaders now openly talk about moving beyond social issues, especially dropping their fight against the freedom to marry, since their party is so clearly on the losing side.

Mother Jones reported that the Mormons have pulled back in the battle for marriage equality, after being the chief funder and organiser for California’s Propostion 8 (and before that, in Hawaii and also California). They left the field mainly to rightwing Catholics who can’t match the Mormons’ ability to mobilise a grassroots effort or raise money.

So, our adversaries find themselves unable to raise money or organise volunteers, and with a viewpoint clearly in the minority. Gallup reported today that support for marriage equality now consistently polls above 50%: It’s currently at 53% support, which, they note, “is essentially double the 27% in Gallup's initial measurement on gay marriage, in 1996.” It’s also ten points higher than it was just three years ago.

The fact that a clear majority of people in the USA support marriage equality is probably the single most important factor in the recent string of victories. Growing support leads to more support, which leads to victories, and that, in turn, leads to even more victories.

Of course, it’s not over yet. The Supreme Court is unlikely to issue a Loving v. Virginia sort of ruling on marriage equality (at least, not yet…), so eventually we’ll run out of states where the freedom to marry can be enacted: Some 2/3 of the US states have specific bans on same-gender couples marrying, usually enshrined in their state constitutions, and those will need to be removed first (as Oregon is getting ready to do).

Still, the momentum is clearly on our side, and marriage equality is inevitable in all 50 US states—though some will probably wait a VERY long time for it.

"Armies cannot stop an idea whose time has come." Freedom to marry is an idea whose time—clearly—has come.

So, congratulations Minnesota! Now, it’s time for Illinois to join the other two Midwest states with the freedom to marry. It’s time has come.


Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

Yes, it IS an incredible time to be alive! Your PM helped make it easier for out National Party MPs to support marriage equality with his, "I don't support marriage equality despite being Conservative, I support marriage equality because I'm Conservative". I think the sentiment resonated with some of our more rightward leaning friends in the NZ Parliament.

I think that some people may have been so appalled by the antics in France that it may have helped them support marriage equality. After all, most of us have never seen such bald—and violent—anti-gay bigotry before.

Yes, Southern US states (in particular) will take longer, and it may take a US Supreme Court decision to force them, a bit like Loving v. Virginia did for inter-racial marriage. ONe way or another, they WILL get there!

Andrew Dineley said...

It's all very positive and I'm really enjoying the victories from afar as we patiently wait for the inevitable here in the UK too. Perversely, I am quite enjoying the crying and begrudging acceptance we keep witnessing, although the antics in France are beyond the pale. France shows these aggressive bigots for what they really are. I hope the momentum continues in the US but I hear the bigger fights are yet to be won with the less evolved states? The future's bright and it is an incredible time to be alive.