Changes like these are tough to gauge ahead of time. Certainly those of generations before me probably didn’t think that the entire Eastern Bloc would collapse in less than three years. Similarly, in the nine years between Massachusetts legalizing same-sex marriage and the two cases being decided 5-4, it seemed that total adoption of the policy was a generation away.
The tide may yet recede, but it appears that even though cultural bigotry towards gays and their rights continues to be strong, the legal façade is crumbling. Doesn’t matter if there’s a statutory ban or a constitutional one, those states that oppose same-sex marriage are falling to the same killer punch every time- equal protection under the law and due process, from the 14th Amendment. No state government or socially conservative groups has an answer. They’ve got numbers, they’ve got signs, they’ve got chants, they’ve got media coverage. They just don’t have one key thing.
So the reddest state in America now has gays and lesbians marrying. With Utah, a standard is set for the 32 states yet to gain marriage equality. All I can do at this moment is express my thanks: I am so incredibly proud of the activists, families, lawyers, judges, and politicians that have been able to change public opinion, make courageous stands, and put their political futures on the line in order to do the right thing.
To the members on the Iowa Supreme Court whose courage cost them their jobs, you have my respect.
To those that grilled legislators, used their votes and their wallets to compel bills through political obstinacy and social conservatism, you are an example of what activism can do given time and sheer determination.
To the voters of Minnesota, who last year were the first to reject a ballot measure to ban same-sex marriage, I admire the long and difficult campaign you endured. The outside money from places like the Church of Latter-Day Saints. The demonization from talk radio and “family” groups. You fought through it all and did it with grace and civility.
To the people who organized and led successful votes in Washington, Maryland, and Maine to approve marriage equality, you have done great work in promoting equal protection and preventing reactionary groups from taking it from you.
To those still laboring in states full of fundamentalism, hatred, and backwards sexual politics, I am sure you will achieve what you seek.
And to those in the LGBT community that know marriage is only one step of many towards true equality, I salute you. Only in a society where transgendered people are not viewed as somehow lesser people; where the workplace is a place where discrimination knows no place; where gays can donate blood without the ignominy that they are somehow the only group that can contract HIV- then justice has scored a full victory. You are already working on the next fight, and the fight after that.
This fight is not over. I am glad that people have not waited passively for a grand court decision to make marriage equality the law of the land. For a state-by-state struggle makes everyone stronger, forges the trust and bonds needed for future fights. There is no moral cover in waiting. The time is now, for all people to cross borders and ideologies and move in collective purpose.
I am glad to identify with the Unitarian Universalist church, who started on this road before anyone else thought same-sex marriage a possibility. They dream, because all justice was once a dream. Let us realize that without equality, we are all not free. The right to marry only achieves real meaning when it applies to all other people. Otherwise it is not a right, it is a privilege.
So today, with New Mexico and Utah moving in the right direction, it is time to move forward with a momentum never before seen in this country.