20 November 2013

More progress

Today the governor of Illinois signed a law that legalizes same-sex marriage, making it the 16th state in the US to recognize gay marriage. This comes just after similar good news emerged Hawaii, where the legislature there also granted marriage equality to gays and lesbians. Gay marriage was approved in Hawaii despite organized conservative religious opposition.

It is instructive to look back just two or three years to see the rapid progress of marriage equality in the US. In fact, the sadness of proposition 8 in California seems almost like ancient history, though it was just five years ago that marriage equality was vigorously debated in my home state.

It was not too long ago that I recall reading about how opponents of same-sex marriage noted that gay marriage was only making headway because of "activist" judicial actions that flaunted the will of the people. But today we know that this "rogue" judiciary now includes the relatively conservative Supreme Court and its nullification of DOMA. Furthermore, of the sixteen states where gay marriage is now legal, the path to equality has come not just because of the courts, but also because of state legislatures and direct votes of the people.

On Sunday, a young gay Mormon came over to have dinner at my place. We were discussing the rapid evolution of public sentiment on gay marriage in the US. He predicted that marriage equality would even spread to Utah in five years. While I'm not sure I share that level of optimism, the rapid progress in this new wave of American civil rights is mistakable. Perhaps my children will look back on this time as adults and be unable to imagine a nation in which gay relationships were treated as second class by the law.

States in the US with some form of legal recognition for same-sex relationships as of 20 Nov 2013. I modified this map from a Wikimedia commons file, licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here for a list of original and subsequent authors of the map and a link to the license.

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