Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.
~ Martin Luther King Jr.
The morning of November 5th, 2008, was bittersweet. I awoke that morning, after Barack Obama’s historic, with a sense of hope diminished by a nagging despair following the passage of Proposition 8 in California, which attempted to snatch away the equality that that the state Supreme Court granted to same-sex couples just months ago. The Obama campaign slogan, “Yes we can,” was transformed into “Yes we did,” by revelers in the streets of D.C. and in other locations across the country and around the world. I couldn’t honestly join in the celebration without also reminding myself that “No, we didn’t.”
Six months later, however, the California Supreme Court has failed to overturn Proposition 8 – while, in Solomon-like fashion – leaving intact the marriages of 18,000 same-sex couples who were able to pass through the narrow window of equality before it slammed shut. But this time my disappointment is less devastating, because we’ve come a surprisingly long way since November 4th.
There’s disappointment this time, too, but not despair. We have by no means become as “post-heterosexism” society. But for those of us who have been pushing and pulling this country towards living up to what it claims to be, and what it claims to believe about equality, our destination may still be a ways off, but it is within site. It is not within reach yet, but it is reachable, and the path is a bit clearer.
“No, we didn’t,” has been transformed into “Yes, we will.”
The day will come.
If anything, it’s even clearer now than it was then that the trend is towards majority support for marriage equality.
…Simply going about the business of living our lives, and taking care of our families means that eventually the law – if there’s any serious commitment to justice – will have to catch up to us. The circumstances of everyday family life will make it more plainly obvious, and painfully obvious in some cases, the cost that inequality exacts from our families, and the inadequacy of half-measures that fall short of equality, and eventually it will appeal to people’s sense of right and wrong; because we are and will have been their friends and neighbors for years, raising our families next to theirs, sending our kids to the same schools, meeting each other at church, community events, etc.
The long arc of the universe may indeed bend towards justice, but only because of many hands and many lives bending it closer day by day.
Marriage equality will be a reality in this country someday, and now I honestly believe that it will be in my lifetime.
Fortunately, the new ruling does not end the issue. There will almost certainly be a counter-initiative to overturn Proposition 8 as early as next year. The ruling also comes as momentum grows for same-sex marriage around the country. This year, three states – Iowa, Vermont and Maine – have moved to allow gay marriages either by court ruling or legislative action. It appears New Hampshire will follow shortly and legislation is moving forward in New York and New Jersey.
Polls show growing support for marriage rights for all Americans. We remain confident that the California ruling was a temporary setback.
Despite the California ruling, time and momentum are still on our side. New Hampshire’s marriage equality legislation may have been sidetracked for further discussion, but it’s likely that a compromise bill will be passed by early June, and New Hampshire will be on the way to joining those states that have taken a step forward in equal protection for their citizens.
New York is also very likely to move forward, too. So far, opposition hasn’t gotten off the ground in New York.
As the Legislature considers whether to make New York the next state to legalize same-sex marriage, social conservatives have been largely missing from the debate in Albany.
…The difficulties in New York echo those that conservatives have faced throughout the Northeast. Over the last six weeks, Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire have all moved to allow gay couples to wed.
The region has been challenging for opponents of same-sex marriage, in part, because the measures are being decided by state legislatures – not voter referendums where the opponents’ ability to motivate large numbers of voters, rather than influence institutional players, has been an advantage.
…The efforts have also been hurt by the lack of a statewide political figure to lead the opposition. The state’s two senators, governor, legislative leaders and attorney general all support allowing gay couples to wed.
Even the new archbishop of New York, Timothy M. Dolan, whose upbeat personality and communication savvy suggest he could be a powerful voice on public policy, has no plans to step into the debate, his spokesman, Joseph Zwilling, said last week.
That means, its very likely that by the end of 2009 marriage equality could be a reality in at least four, maybe five, and possibly even six states.
Time is still on our side.
Two years ago I blogged about research which indicated even in 2004 a majority of 15 to 25 year-olds-favored marriage equality. More recent polls show that among those 18 to 34 years old 58% believe same-sex marriages should be legal. Another poll showed that 40% of those under 40 support marriage equality. Even among evangelicals, there’s an emerging trend that, if not exactly in our favor, leans away from the opposition.
Seventh, acceptance of homosexuals in the family of God is common. Being pro-gay or anti-gay is not the issue. Emergents recognize that sexuality is far more complex than is generally recognized. To live in harmony with gay and lesbian friends and family members is a part of the emergent’s perspective.
No matter how you slice it, an undeniable cultural shift has taken place, and it’s because we made it happen.
For younger respondents, this shift may in part be cultural: the result of coming of age in an era when openly gay people have become increasingly common in popular entertainment and in public life, not to mention in their own families or social circles. Familiarity in this case breeds relative comfort, or perhaps just lack of interest.
By virtue of having the audacity to live our lives as if we have as much of a right to as much of life as heterosexuals, we are changing our families, our communities, and our countries.
That the California Supreme Court, the Iowa Supreme Court, the New York and New Hampshire legislatures, and any other court or legislature in the country signifies how far we’ve come and how much time and momentum are on our side.
The California decision may be a disappointment, but not of the magnitude it might have been in 2004, 2006, or even 2008, when we have fewer victories to count. It’s a step back, in some ways, but not a roadblock.
If we keep it up, the day will come.