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Gay Marriage Foes Knocked Down

by Meredith Aby-Keirstead and Anne Keirstead |
May 24, 2009
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Anti-queer discrimination received a heavy blow when the Iowa Supreme Court legalized gay marriage April 3. Four days later the Vermont state legislature overrode their governor’s veto and became the first non-judicial body to legalize same-sex marriage. Lesbian gay bisexual transgender (LGBT) people around the country were ecstatic about this one-two punch, but even more reason for celebration followed. On May 6, the governor of Maine reversed his previous opposition to gay marriage and signed a bill legalizing it. By doing this, these three states joined Massachusetts and Connecticut in granting gays and lesbians legal recognition of their partnerships.

The victories in Iowa, Vermont and Maine come on the heels of a difficult fall for the LGBT community. Last November the queer rights movement took a hit with the passage of Proposition 8 in California, a ballot initiative that overturned the California Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage. The right wing used queer rights again as a rallying cry for their conservative agenda around the country and won a victory in California. However, these defeats made the comeback this spring that much sweeter.

More victories are expected. Washington D.C. passed a gay marriage bill on May 5. Congress and the president have 30 days to decide whether or not to override the District’s decision. The next day, New Hampshire’s state legislature passed a gay marriage bill that is now awaiting the governor’s approval. According to the Los Angeles Times, it is expected that New York and New Jersey will also legalize gay marriage within a year. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll showed “a sharp shift in public opinion on same-sex marriage. 49% said it should be legal for gay people to marry.” This demonstrates an eleven-point shift from a similar poll conducted by the Washington Post just three years ago.

Public opinion is shifting because of the hard work of the LGBT rights movement. More than ever, queer people have come out of the closet and gone public with their sexuality. LGBT people and our allies are organizing and demonstrating for marriage equality and against laws like Proposition 8. Marriage will not become a right for all without a strong and public movement demanding it. Filing briefs in lawsuits and voting for progressive politicians will not be enough to continue these victories. This fight needs to be waged in the streets, not merely in the courtrooms and legislatures.

Even as we fight for the right to marry, it is important to recognize that it is only one of the battles ahead. No one, queer or straight, should have to be married to have health care. All forms of family should have social and economic acceptance in our society, not just married couples. As we mark the 40th anniversary of Stonewall this summer, it is important to recognize how far we have come, while we continue to struggle for true equality and human rights for all.

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