I’m so excited to report that in the last week, the gay marriage movement has achieved victory in not one, but two states! On April 3rd, the Iowa supreme court ruled that the law banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. And then, today (April 7th), the Vermont Legislature overrode Governor Douglas’ veto. Furthermore, Washington D.C. ruled today to recognize all same-sex marriages from states in which they have been legalized. The respective victories in Iowa and Vermont are exciting in different ways. Vermont is the first state in which gay marriage has passed through the legislative branch, rather than being implemented by activist judges the state Supreme Court. This is a visible symbol of the fact that it isn’t just judges deciding gay marriage is okay from on high–the general population is beginning to favor it as well.
Iowa, on the other hand, has become the first state not in the Northeast to legalize gay marriage (Sorry, California!). And, unlike California, a speedy constitutional amendment is not possible. Even if the proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage were to pass in 2009 or 2010, it would need to be approved by the legislature again in 2011 or 2012, and then go to popular vote. And the fact is, popular vote is tending more and more in favor of gay marriage. I recommend perusing this article by Nate Silver, which provides an analysis of how long it will take each state’s electorate to vote in favor of same-sex marriage.
The times, they are a changing, it seems. So when will President Obama?
In regard to gay rights, Obama was a promising candidate. Although he firmly stuck by his belief that marriage is between one man and one woman, he made it clear that he felt it should be left to the states. And gay rights advocates were hopeful for another reason: as a junior senator, Obama indicated that he believed in same-sex marriage. His more conservative stance during the primary seemed to be a necessary political move. But I was disappointed by his lukewarm response to the ruling in Iowa:
“The President respects the decision of the Iowa Supreme Court, and continues to believe that states should make their own decisions when it comes to the issue of marriage. Although President Obama supports civil unions rather than same-sex marriage, he believes that committed gay and lesbian couples should receive protection under the law.”
Okay, so he believes gays and lesbians should receive “protection under the law”. Is it too much to expect him to muster up more enthusiasm than that? I don’t know–even freaking Rick Warren is reevaluating his stance on same-sex marriage. Obama constantly promised during his campaign to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, but both issues have been given an extremely low priority. I understand that the majority of American Citizens are more concerned about the economy and foreign policy, but it is disappointing that the issue of LGBT rights seem to have disappeared on a national level. Obama recently spoke out condemning the recently passed Afghani law which legalizes marital rape, but has not mentioned the recent spurt of anti-gay violence violence in Iraq.
Should we be satisfied at the state of LGBT rights in America? In the past week, the amount of states in which gay marriage is legal has doubled. The trend is obviously towards equal rights. So ultimately, should we just stop expecting change on a national level, and just wait for citizens to get equal protection under the law on a state-by-state basis? What do you think?