Posted in same-sex marriage
Marriage Equality Gets the Seven-Year Itch
Originally posted by Beacon Broadside, including thoughts from other authors on what has changed, or hasn’t, since the Massachusetts decision:
Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage seven years ago and what has changed? Well, let me point out that the marriage rate nationwide has declined – a-ha! – perhaps same-sex marriage does undermine heterosexual marriage after all. But the divorce rate nationwide has also declined – so maybe same-sex marriage actually strengthens heterosexual unions. Or, here’s a thought, maybe it does neither.
Meanwhile, here in the heartland, we’re having none of it. Six years and 49 weeks after Massachusetts’ action, some Minnesota legislators introduced a bill to define marriage as between one man and one woman in the state Constitution. The bill has been moving quickly through legislative committees and, despite the fact that Minnesota already denies marriage to same-sex couples, it will likely go to the popular vote in the 2012 election. The bill’s advocates are positioning it in the usual ways, of course: giving “the people” the chance for a “dialogue”; protecting children; upholding the will of God. What is clear is that the “dialogue,” when it happens, is likely to play out heavily in the media, to cost millions of dollars, to pit different communities against each other, and to take up a whole lot of time and energy that could be put into other things like – oh, I don’t know – solving the budget deficit, planting gardens, playing with our kids.
Meanwhile, the real dialogue continues, mostly quietly, in communities across our state and the nation. Since Massachusetts (and Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Iowa and Washington, DC) legalized same-sex marriage, more gay and lesbian couples across the nation have become willing to be honest about who they are. In Massachusetts – but also in places like Alabama, Mississippi and Kentucky –same-sex couples are increasingly admitting that they are, in fact, not just roommates.
Maybe this is what the supporters of the Minnesota amendment fear most: that people across the country will increasingly discover that gay men and lesbians really are pretty much like everyone else. And there’s a reason for their fear. Three national polls have now shown that more than half of Americans think that gay men and lesbians should have equal marriage rights. This shift is not occurring only among the young and the liberal, but across religious and demographic groups (though, admittedly, more slowly in some places than others). The primary driver is familiarity. As more people have realized that they are related to, live near, work and volunteer with gay men and lesbians, they have also realized that gay men and lesbians are really just people who deserve to be treated fairly.
That, more than anything, is what has changed since the decision in Massachusetts.