One year ago I described the 2012 election as the turning point in the struggle for marriage equality, as three states won or protected the freedom to marry at the ballot box and another fought back a constitutional ban. But if 2012 marked a watershed, 2013 was the deluge over that divide, with a record number of states recognizing equal marriage, and more than half of those doing so legislatively. In one year, the number of marriage equality states effectively doubled. Sixteen states, the District of Columbia, and several Native American tribal councils – representing over 38% of the population – now recognize the freedom to marry (with decisions in Utah and Oklahoma, representing an additional 2%, currently stayed pending appeal).
The transition from 2013 to 2014 also marks a decade of equality, as the 2003 Massachusetts Supreme Court equal marriage decision went into effect in May 2004. 2004 also saw the celebration and tragic voiding of four thousand marriages in San Francisco, in some ways teeing off the long painful fight for marriage equality in California that resulted in In re Marriage Cases, Prop 8, Hollingsworth v. Perry, and, finally, the restoration of the freedom to marry. As critical as 2004 was in the movement, though, it’s important to remember that the struggle for legal recognition of our relationships began more than three decades earlier.
There are potential drawbacks to both the seemingly rapid rate of success we’ve seen recently, and the long hard work needed to make such successes possible. A sense that the tide is unstoppable risks making us complacent, while the long hard work necessary risks burning us out, especially once our own state has won equality.
For many of us, for example, the sense of euphoria we felt in 2013 as marriage equality was restored to California largely erased the pain of the five years while the Prop 8 case made its way through the courts, or at least seemed to offer a chance to try to catch our breath.
Still, over half of us live in states with statutes or constitutional amendments explicitly denying marriage to same-sex couples. And those of us who may legally marry at home shouldn’t have to fear becoming legal strangers to our spouses as we cross state borders. The work goes on, as long as even one of our lesbian and gay sisters and brothers still is denied the freedom to marry the person they love.
Though Marriage Equality USA has its roots and largest membership bases in states where marriage equality is now law, the organization is proud to be a strong and active player in the fight to win the freedom to marry for all Americans. Thanks to our NEAT (National Equality Action Team) coalition, MEUSA has played a key role in winning marriage equality in states like Delaware, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. This year we’ll be supporting efforts in Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Oregon, among others. Please help us help them win the same freedom and happiness we now have.
By MEUSA Social Media Manager Thom Watson
When Jeff and I married this past September, we expected that we would recognize a difference in our lives and in our relationship after tying the knot.
There are tangible differences, of course, as with our health insurance coverage and taxation. The differences most often have been subtler, but they clearly exist. Marriage matters.
Even in silly little ways we notice it. We delight in referring to each other as “husband,” and it feels more truly descriptive and honest to do so now. And, though we’d been living together a decade before our marriage, and had a registered domestic partnership for nearly half that time, we recently began only half-jokingly commemorating “our firsts,” though they were firsts only in a qualified sense: our first Thanksgiving “as a married couple,” our first Christmas “as husbands,” our first New Year “as legal spouses.”
What I don’t think we fully expected, though, was just how much our marriage meant to other people, and how it would change the way even our friends and families relate to and about us. Those changes run the gamut from trivial to significant. A great many of our friends, for example, have congratulated us on our first Christmas as a married couple.
More subtly, friends and family members who treated us with respect before we were married, who saw us as a committed couple even without a license, nevertheless seem to see and speak of us differently now. Our mothers provide perhaps the most poignant examples. Early in December, Jeff introduced me at a party to an old friend of his mother’s as his husband. Jeff’s mom jumped right in and said, “Yes, I now have two sons.” Our Christmas card from her reflected the same sentiment, as she had used a pen to change the card’s pre-printed “My Son” to read “My Sons.” Similarly, my mother addressed Jeff’s Christmas card this year to “My Son-in-Law.”
Friends and family who rarely, if ever, intruded into the particulars of our relationship now ask when or if we’re planning to have kids; yep, just like opposite-sex couples, that’s now the expectation for what follows marriage. My mother told my nephew’s new fiancées that they have Jeff as an example of how to survive marrying into my loud, overwhelming, overly protective family, and how to deal with one’s in-laws.
Marriages matter, not just for spouses, but for their families and indeed for the larger society in which they live and move. When we marry, our families, friends, and neighbors more clearly understand – and, what’s most troubling to our opponents, increasingly respect and embrace – that families, communities, and societies benefit, and are strengthened, when marriage makes possible the time-honored and express relationship not just with your daughter and son-in-law, but with your son and son-in-law, too.
Mothers-in-law may be fodder for comedians, but understanding that Jeff’s mom is my honest-to-goodness mother-in-law – and that she believes it, too – is about as serious as it gets.
By MEUSA Social Media Director Thom Watson