By Dr. Gail Barouh
Although the tide of social change on controversial issues tends to turn slowly, the march towards marriage equality, while lumbering forward for years has seemed to pick up steam lately. This momentum was most assuredly helped by the endorsement of the President of the United States, and many social institutions are starting to fall into place on the issue. The League of United Latin American Citizens has recently passed a resolution endorsing gay marriage. A long list of Fortune 500 companies such as Kraft foods, General Mills, JC Penny, Proctor and Gamble, Starbucks and others have come out in support of marriage equality, despite the inevitable backlash of conservative organized boycotts. Most of the boycotts have not garnered enough support to persaude the companies’ stance. Even other countries like Ireland and France have top officials calling for a movement towards marriage equality. Polls show that in some mid-western states such as Ohio, its popularity is on the rise. According to a Gallup Poll taken in May, 53 percent of the general American population now supports gay marriage.
The repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell over 10 months ago gave rise to the first same sex military commitment ceremony on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey in June. A new law in Massachusetts declared that discrimination on the basis of gender identity is now illegal, just as it is on the basis of race or disability. Democratic Representative Barney Frank wed his longtime partner, James Ready, on July 8th, becoming the first sitting congressman to enter into a same-sex marriage. And finally, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit upheld a lower court’s decision that the denial of federal rights and benefits to a lawfully married, same sex couple is unconstitutional and the court has ruled unconstitutional California’s Proposition 8, the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage.
It is likely this issue will make its way to the Supreme Court, probably through decisions that will result from the unconstitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. As promising as this may sound, the court has just recently shown with it’s decision on health care issues, that it’s deciding power is unpredictable. There are many different legal ways an issue can be looked at by a Judge, especial one that is as multi-faceted as this one. Although to many it is a clear-cut civil rights issue, the fact that 39 states have laws or state constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage may make the court see it differently, especially since they have stated general reticence to invalidate the acts of the Nation’s elected leaders.
But perhaps before the matter is put before the Court, the momentum of change will continue, the tide of social change will turn and many of these state statutes will be overturned and the Court will have an opportunity to see things differently.