Pages tagged "'analysis&opinion'"
I was poised to write this week’s column as a speculation about which state would be the tenth to recognize civil marriage equality for same-sex couples, joining nine other states and the District of Columbia where the freedom to marry already is guaranteed. Would it be Delaware, where the House passed a marriage equality bill last week, just five days after the bill’s introduction? Maybe Rhode Island, where two critical Senate votes finally had been scheduled, three months after a similar bill passed in the House? Or Minnesota, where a state senator seen as a key swing vote announced he would support the pending bill? Might it even be former front runner Illinois, which seems to be floundering after an initial brisk start out of the gate, when swift Senate approval had been hailed as a Valentine’s Day gift for Illinois’s same-sex couples? Even Nevada got into the game last week, albeit by necessity taking a much longer view; due to statutory requirements, Nevada residents won’t be able to vote to repeal the existing ban and to sanction civil marriage equality until 2016 at the earliest. Coming off a two-month period where there had seemed relatively little activity on marriage equality legislation, I was primed to handicap the race and make my predictions for the finish. But when you’re a writer with a long lead time, the real world can end up throwing curve balls – or, perhaps more aptly, dramatic ninth-inning game-tying home runs, which to Giants fans like my fiancé and me has become a heart-poundingly familiar part of the game. That’s pretty much what happened -a game-tying late-inning home run by the Giants and a marriage equality curve ball – just as I was putting my column to bed. Shift-click, delete. Reboot. Sadly, the Giants went on to lose that evening. But marriage equality was poised for at least one dramatic win. With the Rhode Island Senate’s incredibly swift and stunningly lopsided bipartisan vote for marriage equality, the largely procedural formality of sending the slightly amended bill back to the supportive House for re-approval, and Governor Lincoln Chafee’s public endorsement, the question of which state will be the tenth to recognize marriage equality already seems clearly answered. Rhode Island is likely to have a signed marriage equality law early this month, potentially as early as this week. Same-sex couples should be able to start marrying there this summer. I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if we saw an 11th state moved into the win column by the time this hits print. As quickly as things can change, any prepublication prediction I might make is prone to be overtaken by reality. And I’m okay with that. It’s not often that a writer hopes that what he’s penned is out-of-date by the time it appears in print. But I couldn’t be happier about the possibility that the U.S. sometimes moves faster on marriage equality than even those of us who devote much of our time to the issue might expect or predict. So now that my prediction about the outcome in Rhode Island is moot, I can turn rather to why I think it’s particularly meaningful. First, that any state comes to recognize the freedom to marry is momentous. Every state that moves to embracing fuller equality for same-sex couples brings us one step closer to equality for all. Some Supreme Court scholars suggest that the Court cares very much about where states and state governments stand on an issue – more than they might care about where a majority of Americans themselves stand on an issue – so every state that recognizes marriage equality is one more point in our favor on that hypothetical scoreboard. There may never be a more critical time, in fact, than in this period between the February Prop 8 and DOMA oral arguments and the decisions expected next month, to demonstrate to the Court that more and more states are moving towards fuller equality for same-sex couples rather than continuing to reject or qualify equal treatment under the law. Still, Rhode Island has its own particular and in some ways even unique significance in the movement for marriage equality. With Maine’s recognition of the freedom to marry at the ballot last fall, for example, Rhode Island had remained the only New England state to restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples. Significantly, all five members of the Senate’s Republican caucus voted for the bill, the first legislative caucus of either of the two major political parties in any state to unanimously support the freedom to marry. Marriage equality is not a partisan issue, and support for the freedom to marry crosses party lines, superseding politics. The Senate vote similarly demonstrated that marriage equality is not inimical to religious liberty, and that religious belief need not correlate with opposing the freedom to marry. The percentage of the population identifying as Catholic is among the highest in the U.S. Many state senators are publicly and proudly religious. During floor debate, several confirmed they had been pressured to oppose the bill on religious grounds, but they had come to recognize they were voting for civil marriage equality, and that their churches’ understanding of the religious sacrament of marriage was neither affected nor in any way jeopardized by the civil marriage legislation. Perhaps the most important take-away from the Rhode Island legislative process, however, was a message at the heart of Marriage Equality USA’s own mission, that hearts and minds change in favor of marriage equality when the legislator or the voter knows someone gay: a family member, a close friend, a neighbor, a colleague. Research has borne out what we’ve long proposed; when someone you know or love is gay, it’s less likely you will vote to restrict their freedom and equality, and more likely you will advocate for their inclusion as full rather than second-class citizens. Senator after senator in Rhode Island last week said that they had been planning to vote against the marriage equality bill before they got to know lesbians and gay men, spent time with same-sex couples and their kids, and saw that while their love and commitment and family values are the same, the way the government and the law treats them is different. They saw that this is unfair, and that it is wrong, and that it is un-American. And they voted to make it right. It turns out that being open, honest and out of the closet – telling our stories, in our own words, to the people already in our lives – are among the very best tools we have to ensure our equality. Now that’s a “lifestyle” worth promoting. By MEUSA Social Media Director Thom Watson An edited version of this article originally appeared in SF Bay Times, May 2, 2013: http://www.sfbaytimes.com/?sec=article&article_id=17569
Last week as we were busily collecting our 2012 receipts, W-2 and 1099 forms and preparing to hit the send button on our income tax returns, we thought maybe, just maybe, this year might be the last that legally married lesbian and gay couples will have to lie to their federal government about the nature of their love and relationships and file their taxes as supposedly single people. If the United States Supreme Court in the historic United States v. Windsor case upholds its duty to enforce the Constitution and strikes down section 3 of the misnamed Defense of Marriage Act, this indignity and real cost to thousands of same-sex couples will finally end. For many lesbian and gay couples, not being able to file their taxes jointly means writing a check to the same federal government that openly discriminates against them for thousands of more dollars – money that they, just like anyone else, could use for health care, retirement, emergencies, or a down payment on a house. Indeed, for us it was the evening of April 14, 2003 – ten years ago – that we made the decision to become active in the emerging marriage equality movement. Our papers and calculators strewn across our kitchen table, we started to fill out our tax return forms, and we remember getting to the section pertaining to marital status. We realized at that moment that our government was forcing us with our own hand to deny who we were as people and deny the truth of our relationship by requiring us to check the “Single” box – even though at that point we had been together for 16 years. We then had to turn the form over and sign “under penalty of perjury” that we were telling the truth. And when we did the math, we learned that we were paying almost 40 percent more in taxes than if we had been able to file jointly. It was time to get involved. We decided to attend the rally at San Francisco City Hall on February 12, 2004, National Freedom to Marry Day, and when we arrived it was the first hour that San Francisco was issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. We bolted into City Hall, got married (only to have it taken away 6 months later), and have been working for marriage equality ever since. For us, it has now been 25 years of denying who we are to our federal government; for many other lesbian and gay couples, it has been much longer. But a wonderful 83-year-old lesbian, Edie Windsor, may bring down the whole house of cards. When Edie lost the the love of her life, Thea— her partner of 40 years and legally married wife—the federal government presented Edie with an estate tax bill of $363,000 that she would not have had to pay if she and Thea had been a heterosexual couple. Edie fought back along with many, many others in our community, and if we are successful at the Supreme Court, DOMA will no longer deprive married same-sex couples of over 1,100 protections, rights, and responsibilities under federal law that all other married couples have. If Section 3 of DOMA is found unconstitutional, it would have far-ranging implications, including opening the door to green card applications for bi-national couples, finally allowing LGBTIQ Americans to sponsor their spouses for immigration and live their lives together at last. The end of DOMA could be especially important for protecting older lesbian and gay couples through spousal social security benefits and retirement and pension rights. Children of married lesbian and gay couples would also benefit greatly by receiving the protection and respect for their families that heterosexual families already have. Benjamin Franklin once wrote that “nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes,” but Martin Luther King declared that “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.” President Obama added: “But here is the thing: it does not bend on its own. It bends because each of us in our own ways put our hand on that arc and we bend it in the direction of justice...” As we begin to anticipate what the Supreme Court will decide in the marriage equality cases, we take heart in how much our community is bending the arc toward justice and equality. Our country seems poised on the verge of historic change. Now more than ever, the momentum seems unstoppable. It seems as if almost every day in the news, another leader announces they’ve “evolved” on DOMA and marriage equality. Just over three weeks ago, Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri (a state that in 2004 passed an anti-marriage equality ballot initiative by over 70 percent) announced her support for the freedom to marry: “I have come to the conclusion that our government should not limit the right to marry based on who you love. …[M]y children have a hard time understanding why this is even controversial. I think history will agree with my children.” Less than two weeks ago, Senator Joe Donnelly, who narrowly won election in Indiana in November 2012, proclaimed that he opposed “enshrin[ing]” in the Constitution “an ‘us’ and a ‘them,’ instead of a ‘we.’ …I have concluded that the right thing to do is to support marriage equality for all.” And this change is not limited to marriage equality. As Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia stated in announcing his support for the end of DOMA just over three weeks ago, “I’m against discrimination in all its forms.” When the Supreme Court decides the Windsor case and the Proposition 8 case in the next couple months, it could announce landmark decisions striking down DOMA, invalidating Proposition 8, and establishing heightened constitutional protection for lesbian and gay people in all aspects of our lives. It could issue much narrower decisions, or indeed rule against us. Decisions invalidating section 3 of DOMA and Proposition 8 on any grounds would be a big step forward for our movement. But narrow decisions would mean that we still have work to do to extend to all same-sex couples the over 1,100 federal rights and protections that marriage provides and to establish the freedom to marry as a fundamental right nationwide. As marriage equality is but one important element of the movement for full LGBTIQ equality, the work to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, to secure much needed rights and protections for transgender persons, to support LGBTIQ youth, and to achieve many other community goals will continue as well. We as LGBTIQ people, along with our allies, will continue to bend the arc of the moral universe toward freedom, justice, and equality. By MEUSA National Media Director Stuart Gaffney and MEUSA Director of Legal & Policy John Lewis This article originally appeared in SF Bay Times, April 18, 2013: http://www.sfbaytimes.com/?sec=article&article_id=17517
Whether you marched in San Francisco or elsewhere around the country, or traveled to Washington, DC, for the U.S. Supreme Court’s hearings in the marriage equality cases, we have all just participated in history in the making. After going to Washington, we feel more inspired than ever about our community’s work for full LGBTIQ equality. At the Supreme Court, people camped out for days, even enduring a rare spring snowstorm, in order to get seats inside the courthouse. Outside the court, people gathered from all across the country and overseas to bear witness and to put a human face on the issue. Before speaking at the rally on the Supreme Court steps, we met people who had traveled from places as diverse as Mississippi, Hong Kong, Vermont and, of course, California to participate in the historic occasion. Lesbian and gay couples and their families, allies, clergy, and people from every part of our diverse LGBTIQ community came out to stand together before the Court. Just as the California Supreme Court Justices were moved by the 2004 weddings at San Francisco City Hall taking place right outside their chambers, we hope that the Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court are moved by our collective voices. Ultimately, we will succeed at the Court to the extent the Court recognizes our common humanity, through decades of millions of LGBTIQ people coming out and speaking the truth of their lives. The human face of our community was reflected meaningfully in comments several Justices made during the oral arguments. For instance, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg explained how the misnamed “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) deprives lesbian and gay couples of over 1,100 rights and protections under federal law, affecting “every aspect” of our lives. She delivered perhaps the most memorable line of the hearings when she concluded that heterosexual couples have “full marriage,” while same-sex couples are consigned to “skim milk marriage.” Justice Ginsberg further explained that when married same-sex couples can file “no joint [tax] return, [receive] no marital deduction [for estate tax purposes, get] no Social Security benefits; [and when] your spouse is very sick [and] you can’t get leave … one might well ask, what kind of marriage is this?” Justice Elena Kagan noted how DOMA did something that had “really never been done before,” when it targeted an entire class of legally married people to deny them rights under federal law. She cut to the chase when she noted the blatantly anti-gay intent of DOMA, quoting the House of Representatives Report that stated that one of DOMA’s purposes was “to express moral disapproval of homosexuality.” Justice Kagan also shredded the Prop. 8 attorney’s argument that the ability to procreate forms the legal basis for marriage. Questioning the attorney whether his argument would justify a hypothetical law prohibiting two heterosexuals over the age of 55 from marrying, Justice Kagan explained to the seemingly befuddled attorney: “I can just assure you [that] if both the woman and the man are over the age of 55, there are not a lot of children coming out of that marriage.” The procreation argument is a particularly curious one to make to this Court, given that both of Chief Justice John Roberts’ children are adopted. Justice Anthony Kennedy also evidenced intimate familiarity with lesbian and gay families when he spoke of how Prop. 8’s denying the freedom to marry to same-sex couples caused an “immediate … injury” to the approximately “40,000 children in California … that live with same-sex parents, and [who] want their parents to have full recognition and full status.” Justice Kennedy spoke of how “important” the “voice of those children is … in this case.” But other comments the Justices made at the hearings underscore how “skim milk” is not the only “milk” pertinent to these cases. It is Harvey Milk’s call for all of us to come out and live our lives openly at every opportunity that is ultimately the key to our success at the Court. Two of Justice Kennedy’s other comments at the arguments particularly highlight the importance of the Justices being aware of LGBTIQ people’s lives and our loving relationships. In apparently evaluating the appropriateness of a nationwide decision on the freedom to marry in all 50 states, Justice Kennedy expressed concern regarding what he believed to be the recent nature of sociological evidence about marriage for same-sex couples and their families: “We have five years of information to weigh against 2,000 years of history or more.” He later told plaintiffs’ attorney in the Prop. 8 case Ted Olson that “the problem with the case is that you’re really asking, particularly because of the sociological evidence you cite, for us to go into uncharted waters,” which may lead to “a wonderful destination,” or maybe “a cliff.” Justice Kennedy has written the two landmark gay rights cases in the history of the Court, but his comments point to how critical the Justices’ understanding the truth of our lives is to our achieving full liberty and equality under the law. Of course, the truth is that the Court would not be entering “uncharted waters” if it ruled that LGBTIQ people, just like everyone else, have the freedom to marry under the Constitution. LGBTIQ people have been around for well over 2,000 years – indeed we’ve always been around – and we have had loving, committed relationships for centuries and have long been raising children. Our lives and history have already shown that same-sex love, relationships, and families are “a wonderful destination.” For years, people were unable to live their lives openly because of obvious discrimination, threats to their safety and well being, and lack of social acceptance and support. What’s new is that in recent decades we have been able to live our lives openly because of the bravery of so many people who have come out and refused to live a lie. Coming out has enabled us to advocate for our full equality and inclusion. Indeed, recent polling results show 81 percent support for marriage equality among 18-29 year olds. Perhaps most importantly, the Court has never demanded sociological evidence of the societal value of heterosexual couples’ marrying as a prerequisite for heterosexuals having the Constitutional right to marry. The reality is that people – both heterosexual and homosexual – have loving, committed relationships, and many of these couples have children. For those couples who chose to marry, marriage can provide dignity, support, recognition, and protection for their families. The freedom to marry should be a constitutional right of every American without exception as part of our freedom to define ourselves and pursue happiness in our lives — not something to which we must prove we are entitled. As Harvey Milk said over 30 years ago: “All men are created equal. No matter how hard they try, they can never erase those words. That is what America is about.” And as President Barack Obama proclaimed during his inaugural address just two and half months ago: “[I]f we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal, as well.” No one knows after oral argument how the Supreme Court will ultimately rule in any case, and the questions the Justices asked during the arguments could be interpreted in a variety of ways. But as we await the high court’s ruling, likely to be announced the last week of Pride Month, the way our community came together last week to stand up for itself both inside the courtroom and across the nation greatly inspires us as we continue on the road from “skim milk marriages” to full LGBTIQ equality. We are filled with perhaps Harvey Milk’s favorite word: hope. By MEUSA Director of Legal & Policy John Lewis and MEUSA National Media Director Stuart Gaffney This article originally appeared in SF Bay Times, April 4, 2013: http://www.sfbaytimes.com/?sec=article&article_id=17473
All eyes will turn to the United States Supreme Court next week as the Justices hear oral arguments in two potentially landmark cases: the challenge to Proposition 8, that took away the freedom to marry from same-sex couples in California, and the challenge to Section 3 of the misnamed “Defense of Marriage Act,” which denies legally married same-sex couples over 1,000 rights, protections, and responsibilities under federal law simply because they are gay. Never before has the Court heard two significant gay rights cases simultaneously, and the Court’s rulings in these cases (expected in late June 2013) could be a defining moment in our entire community’s decades-long struggle for equality under the law. These cases could decide the fundamental issue of whether the Constitution’s guarantees of liberty and equality truly extend to lesbian and gay people. As our community stands before the U.S. Supreme Court, and at rallies in San Francisco and all around the country next week, the potentially historic nature of these cases is unmistakable. Decades of tireless activism have all been leading to this very moment. Before Proposition 8, the California Supreme Court issued an historic decision of its own in May 2008 when it removed the last barrier to marriage equality in California and held that the state’s then existing statutory ban on marriage for same-sex couples violated the state constitution. Thanks to that ruling, all Californians enjoyed a fundamental state constitutional right to marry the person they loved — regardless of their race, religion, creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity. A person’s fundamental right to marry, and to have the highest state recognition and protection for their relationship, depended upon their humanity – and their humanity alone – not on any external factor as to the class of people to which they could be categorized. Before Proposition 8, every LGBTIQ person – regardless of which initial described them — could marry the person they loved because the state was not in the business of excluding couples from marriage based on who they were or who they loved. The state did not even ask marriage license applicants their gender. The California Supreme Court’s decision was also groundbreaking because it established under our state constitution that lesbian and gay people, just like other groups who have historically faced discrimination, are entitled to the highest degree of protection under the state constitution. State and local laws that treat lesbian and gay Californians differently from everyone else are presumptively unconstitutional and can stand only if the state demonstrates a most compelling reason for the law. This ruling applies to every way in which state and local governments in California relate to lesbian and gay people, and the court recognized that marriage was just the particular example of discrimination before it. The Court held that, under state law, excluding same-sex couples from marriage “marks” lesbian and gay people as “second-class citizens.” The same would be true of any law that unjustifiably treats lesbian and gay people differently from everyone else. This aspect of the Court’s ruling stands today despite Proposition 8, and protects lesbian and gay people if a public school, police department, or any other California state or local governmental entity discriminates against them. This type of heightened constitutional protection under the United States Constitution for all lesbian and gay Americans in all aspects of our lives — including the freedom to marry — is what plaintiffs Edie Windsor, Jeff Zarrillo & Paul Katami, and Sandy Stier & Kris Perry, the President of the United States, the State of California, and millions of other people are fighting for. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals stated that “Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples. The [United States] Constitution simply does not allow for ‘laws of this sort.’” The lower federal courts have recognized DOMA as an unprecedented exclusion of an entire class of legally married Americans from federal rights and protections. In the 2003 landmark decision Lawrence v. Texas, which overturned all state laws criminalizing private, physical expression of love between two people of the same gender, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote “that the protection of liberty under the [Constitution] has a substantive dimension of fundamental significance in defining the rights of the person.” And “[h]ad those who drew and ratified the [Constitution] known the components of liberty in its manifold possibilities, they might have been more specific.” But “they did not presume to have this insight. They knew times can blind us to certain truths and later generations can see that laws once thought necessary and proper in fact serve only to oppress. As the Constitution endures, persons in every generation can invoke its principles in their own search for greater freedom.” As our generation now comes before the highest court of the land, we seek fulfillment of the promise that words engraved on the architrave of the Supreme Court building in Washington D.C., “Equal Justice Under Law,” apply to us. As we do, we stand shoulder to shoulder with — and on the shoulders of — the millions of LGBTIQ people who have come out and have built a movement. Although only a handful of attorneys will actually argue the cases before the Court, we all will be before the Court next Tuesday and Wednesday. By MEUSA National Media Director Stuart Gaffney and MEUSA Director of Legal & Policy John Lewis This article originally appeared in SF Bay Times, March 21, 2013: http://www.sfbaytimes.com/?sec=article&article_id=17433
Tipping the Scales – In 2012, Gains Outweighed Losses Unquestionably, 2012 will be remembered as a watershed moment for marriage, the tipping point when the tide of equality crested the hill of public opinion. Since spring 2012, polls consistently have found that support for equal marriage is the majority position. Those polls were reflected in unprecedented wins at the ballot box in November 2012. While Minnesotans rejected a constitutional ban, majorities of voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington went further, explicitly ratifying the freedom to marry. In fact, Mainers approved marriage equality by nearly the same margin they hadrejected it just two years earlier, one example among many of the incredibly rapid rate of positive change in public opinion and support. Loving committed couples began marrying in Maine and Washington in December and in Maryland the first day of January, 2013. Moreover, outcomes like those in Maine, Maryland and Washington are important not just for residents of those states but are vital in further shaping public opinion. Where same-sex couples have the freedom to marry, polls show an increase in acceptance and approval of extending this right. By year’s end, almost one in six Americans was living in one of the nine states and the District of Columbia that recognize marriage equality. The Democratic Party also made history in 2012 when it included language unambiguously supporting marriage equality in its national party platform, the first time a major U.S. political party had done so. Indeed, the platform committee unanimously endorsed the statement. Across the aisle, many high-profile Republicans like Ken Mehlman, Paul Singer, Ted Olson and others gave generously of their time, energy, talents and dollars to fund marriage equality advocacy, pass equal marriage legislation and litigate marriage bans. One in four self-identified Republican voters bucked the party line to approve marriage equality in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington; without these voters, equality would not have prevailed. However, the national Republican Party platform explicitly affirmed the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and recommended a federal constitutional marriage amendment, despite increased public support for marriage equality, the pro-equality policies of a growing number of states and the rising tide of same-sex couples already legally wed. In light of these factors and the party’s defeat in the Presidential election, some Republican insiders may urge the party to modify its position in 2013. Our community also suffered a painful defeat at the ballot box last May when North Carolina became the 31st state to enact a constitutional amendment prohibiting legal recognition for same-sex couples. While passage of North Carolina’s Amendment One was heartbreaking, the wins in four other states meant it was the last time opponents could claim that whenever the public are allowed to vote on marriage, they vote to exclude loving same-sex couples from it. Marriage equality supporters in the South also are redoubling their efforts in light of the vote. In 2013, committed same-sex couples and the Campaign for Southern Equality are advocating for marriage equality through the “We Do” campaign in seven southern states, including North Carolina. This year, advocates will work to secure full marriage equality in Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Rhode Island and perhaps Minnesota; to pass civil union legislation in Colorado; to repeal existing bans in Minnesota and Ohio; and to hold back potential bans in Indiana and Iowa. Very recently, marriage equality and domestic partnership bills also have been introduced in Wyoming, along with a marriage equality bill in New Mexico. Although we can’t yet predict their likelihood of passage, one very positive note is that the Wyoming bills have bipartisan sponsorship. The Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA), which would overturn DOMA, also will be reintroduced in Congress in early 2013. Although chances for passing are slim given the makeup of the House of Representatives, the number of sponsors and supporters in Congress continues to grow and now includes both Democrats and Republican members. I Always Rely on the Kindness of Allies The President of the United States became the most famous, powerful and influential ally for marriage equality last year when, in a May 9 interview with ABC News, he publicly endorsed the freedom to marry, less than a week after Vice President Biden had done so on Meet the Press. Citing conversations with his own friends, family and neighbors as a decisive factor in his oft-described “evolution” on marriage, President Obama remarked, “[W]hen I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, …personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.” The President went further in his January 21, 2013 inaugural address by placing the movement for LGBT equality squarely among other American civil rights struggles in "Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall," and by proclaiming that the ongoing journey to recognize our nation’s founding principle and “most evident truth” that all are created equal “is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.” It is difficult to overstate the importance of President Obama’s support. However, marriage equality wins in 2012 would not have been possible without the perseverance and dedication of allies across the political spectrum and across all walks of life. In 2012, Governors O’Malley and Gregoire of Maryland and Washington, respectively, provided critical political support both for the initial passage of legislation and throughout the resulting public referenda campaigns. Shamefully, New Jersey governor Chris Christie took an opposing approach, vetoing marriage equality legislation and stating he believes the issue should be put to public referendum. Many criticized him for his position, and legislators have until next January to attempt to override the veto. The Marriage Equality USA (MEUSA) Campaign for 20 Million More leveraged the organization’s grassroots volunteer-driven strategy to forge a strong coalition of advocates and allies – LGBT and straight; Republicans, Democrats and Independents; faith leaders, religious believers and secularists – that put hundreds of volunteers from MEUSA and more than 50 partner organizations door-to-door in the four states and at phone banks across the rest of the country. Similar coalitions and campaigns, some already underway and others in development, will play a key role in passing marriage equality legislation in more states throughout 2013. Moreover, ongoing market research identified conversations with straight family, friends, neighbors and colleagues who support equality as a particularly crucial component in moving undecided voters to a position of support and to a willingness to vote for love, commitment and marriage. In all four states with ballot initiatives last fall, such outreach by straight allies absolutely was critical to success. President Obama’s bold public support for marriage was cited as a contributing factor throughout the fall election by others who moved from a position of opposition, or from support for lesser and unequal statuses of civil unions or domestic partnerships, to a position of full support for marriage. In Illinois, where we hope equality legislation will pass this year, Governor Quinn changed his position from favoring civil unions to supporting full marriage only after the president’s statement. More recently the governor said, in regards to marriage equality and quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “[I]t’s the right time to do the right thing.” The Ball’s In Your Court Now This year, of course, all eyes are on the Supreme Court after its December announcement that it had granted certiorari for two high-profile marriage cases. On March 26 and 27, respectively, the court will hear oral arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the case addressing California’s Proposition 8 repeal of the state constitutional guarantee of equal marriage, and in U.S. v. Windsor, one of roughly a half-dozen cases landing on the high courts’ docket last year challenging Section 3 of DOMA. The remaining DOMA cases before the high court appear to be in a holding pattern awaiting resolution of Perry and Windsor. A mounting number of DOMA and marriage equality cases in various circuits specifically have been stayed pending those decisions, including cases contesting the constitutionality of marriage bans in Hawaii and Nevada. By the end of June the court could hand down any number of decisions in the Perry case ranging from a sweeping nationwide win – e.g., a finding that the U.S. Constitution requires equal marriage for all Americans, regardless of the state in which they live – to a bitterly resounding defeat – e.g., an opinion that the freedom to marry for some citizens not only is neither constitutionally guaranteed nor protected, but in fact may be denied or repealed by public referendum. Or the court could, to a degree, punt on the merits of the case, either by issuing a narrow opinion overturning Prop. 8 on the grounds that the right to marry once constitutionally recognized may not later be revoked by referendum, or by essentially refusing to rule at all based on a finding that the defendants had no constitutional right to appeal in the first place; that is, they lacked standing. In the case of such a procedural punt, the win for marriage equality would be a correspondingly smaller one – likely restoring marriage only to California, and creating no precedent – but a win nonetheless. In Windsor, the court has given itself a similar procedural out, as it has asked a third party to brief the court on the issue of standing therein as well. Nonetheless, most analysts expect the court to issue an opinion on the merits regarding DOMA. A win on the merits in Windsor would require the federal government to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples in those states and the District of Columbia where such marriages are valid. Legally married same-sex couples in those jurisdictions no longer would be denied the more than 1,100 federal rights and protections granted to married couples. A win in Windsor alone, however, would not require other states either to perform or recognize marriages of same-sex couples. A loss in Windsor, conversely, would require the federal government to continue to discriminate against some married couples in the provision of rights and protections, granting them only to opposite-sex married couples while denying them to same-sex married couples, unless and until DOMA is repealed legislatively via the Respect for Marriage Act. In an interview with Buzzfeed, Edie Windsor, the plaintiff in the DOMA case, expressed her optimism. “There’s a whole world of justice,” the 83-year-old widow noted. “And so, I’m not skeptical... I trust the Constitution. Sometimes there’s a mistake, but mostly we move forward. I think we’re going to win just because I think justice will prevail.” In both Perry and Windsor, the court also has the opportunity to determine the degree of legal scrutiny to be applied to cases involving sexual orientation; that is, whether the constitutionality of laws that restrict rights based on sexual orientation should be examined with a higher degree of scrutiny, as are laws that target race, gender or national origin, and which make such laws much harder to justify, or whether laws restricting rights of lesbian and gay people are subject to lesser scrutiny, as traditionally has been the case. In the past, the Supreme Court has stopped short of ruling that laws that target sexual orientation need be subjected to the same level of scrutiny as laws based on race or gender, but several of the lower courts in the Prop. 8 and DOMA cases have suggested that sexual orientation merits such heightened scrutiny. Should the high court agree with these lower courts, it would be very difficult in the future to defend any law that restricted rights on the basis of sexual orientation. While we hope for positive Supreme Court decisions at minimum restoring marriage equality to California and overturning DOMA Section 3, even the least desirable outcomes will not stop our forward movement--at worst, only slow it. The hard work is not yet over, to be sure. And setbacks will occur. But in light of the momentous advancements of this past year and the unwavering commitment of so many advocates and allies, the inevitability of marriage equality for all has perhaps never been more clear. As MEUSA Executive Director Brian Silva said after marriage’s historic wins at the ballot box last fall, “There is no turning back now on the road to full equality.” By MEUSA Social Media Director Thom Watson and MEUSA Director of Legal & Policy John Lewis This article originally appeared in GO Magazine, February 6, 2013: http://www.gomag.com/article/state_of_our_unions_2013/