Thursday, April 23, 2009

Progress Towards Marriage Equality

Just four and half years ago, same-sex marriage bans were approved in all 11 states where a referendum was on the ballot, incited by a state supreme court ruling that made it legal in Massachusetts. More were passed over the next few years (Texas followed in 2005), and same-sex marriage in California was even overturned by voters just this passed November.

But there seems to be momentum this year in the other direction. Same-sex marriage became legal in Iowa via court ruling, but no legislation was introduced to overturn it. In Vermont, the legislature became the first in the nation to approve same-sex marriage themselves. Similiar legislation has been introduced in New York and Maine and has a decent shot at passage.

A public hearing on allowing gay marriage in Maine has opened with a standing ovation for the bill's sponsor.

Sen. Dennis Damon received a roar of approval at a crowded hearing Wednesday when he said the time has come to recognize same-sex marriages.

He says his proposal "recognizes the worth of every man and woman among us." It is backed by 60 co-sponsors.
Gov. Paterson introduced the legislation in New York and Maine Gov. John Baldacci, who previous opposed it, now says he's keeping an open mind. Gay rights activists have set a goal of establishing same-sex marriage in all six New England states by 2012. They're already halfway there (Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, whose state legislature will soon codify into law the court ruling making same-sex marriage legal).

Of course, progress is clearly regional for now. The "red" states have banned same-sex marriage with firm majorities (even there, generational differences in attitude on this issue will eventually lead to their repeal). But, the midwestern state of Iowa does not seem to have the same fervent reaction. The ban in California will eventually be overturned, and the neighboring Northwest will follow in the Northeast's footsteps. In any case, who could have imagined this even just a few years ago?

UPDATE: A new Quinnipiac poll shows a plurality of New Jersey voters back same-sex marriage rights.

UPDATE II: National support for same-sex marriage grows.

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