Opinion

The Great Debate

Big wins for the freedom to marry. Now let’s finish the job.

By Evan Wolfson
June 26, 2013

Reggie Stanley (R) and Rocky Galloway embrace as they are married in Washington.

Nearly two years after we were pronounced married by New York state in front of our family and friends, my husband and I are finally married in the eyes of the federal government.

Okay, it took an order from the Supreme Court. But Cheng and I are celebrating anyway.

Like so many other same-sex couples wed under the shadow of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, we had been treated as second-class citizens — forced to pay extra to file our taxes and get spousal health coverage. We were denied access to federal programs such as Social Security or immigration green cards — among the many federal protections automatically afforded other married couples who are not gay.

But though my husband and I, here in New York, can look forward to the federal government finally treating us as what we are — married — that simple respect is still denied couples just like us in, say, North Carolina.

Cheng and I can now take family leave to care for each other without fear of losing our jobs. But Mark Maxwell and Timothy Young of Winston-Salem, who can’t even both be legal parents to their four sons because of state discrimination, are denied that — even though they were legally married in Washington earlier this year.

For despite the Supreme Court ruling Wednesday that strikes down a central part of the Defense of Marriage Act, some federal programs are now based on where couples live — not where they were married. Until the Obama administration and Congress do their parts to implement the court’s ruling, applying the time-honored “place of celebration” standard that respects lawful marriages by states like New York, the United States will remain a patchwork — and marriages will sputter in and out like cellphone service.

And, of course, though the Supreme Court’s other marriage decision on Wednesday restored the freedom to marry to couples in California — along with the 12 other states that we’ve won — 37 states still refuse to issue marriage licenses to loving and committed same-sex couples.

The Supreme Court failed to end marriage discrimination nationwide, as it finally had to do in ending bans on interracial marriage in 1967’s Loving v. Virginia. Even after our string of freedom-to-marry victories in Delaware, Minnesota and Rhode Island this year, the Illinois House of Representative’s failure to take up marriage legislation last month demonstrated that the freedom to marry won’t just win itself.

Fortunately, though, the path to victory is clear. And our nation is already on it. The same winning strategy that has brought such transformation and triumph — nearly a third of Americans now live in freedom-to-marry states, up from zero a decade ago — can now spread that freedom nationwide.

At the federal level, we’ll keep building support in Congress to pass the Respect for Marriage Act — getting DOMA off the books entirely and ending the piecemeal approach to respecting marriages.

With California back, we’ll channel the momentum for marriage into winning the next round of states — from New Jersey to New Mexico, from Oregon to Ohio. We’ll finish the job in states like Hawaii and Illinois, even as we push to grow support in all 50 states.

Elizabeth Chase (L) and Kate Baldridge stand outside the federal courthouse in San Francisco.

Freedom to Marry’s aim is to see a majority of Americans in marriage states by 2016 — working in state legislatures, in the courts and at the ballot — with our eyes set on a return to the Supreme Court with more states, more support and more receptive justices.

Through it all, we will continue to create the climate that empowers decision-makers to do the right thing, making the case by sharing our experiences — which will continue to change hearts and minds.

We have built a nationwide majority for marriage — 58 percent of Americans, according to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, and 81 percent of younger voters, including Republicans and evangelicals — support our view. Freedom to Marry now aims to get that support to 60 percent within three years, promoting conversations about why marriage matters with Americans of all races, religious beliefs and political persuasions.

The Supreme Court first punted on interracial marriage before it finally did the right thing in Loving v. Virginia in 1967 — and brought the country to national resolution.

We have the momentum, we have the truth, we have the support of the American people, and we have the winning strategy. We just need to keep at it.

Our work in this next and final chapter will decide whether it’s a question of years or decades. I know which timeline Freedom to Marry’s on.

 

PHOTOS: Reggie Stanley (R) and Rocky Galloway embrace as they are married in Washington. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque; Elizabeth Chase (L) and Kate Baldridge stand outside the federal courthouse in San Francisco, California. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith 

 

 

Comments
2 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/20 13/06/26/marriage-equality-not-for-state s-to-decide/

I posted this comment on the above article, but it applies equally to all of you people who want to rush to judgement on this issue.

Your strongly-voiced “argument” is nothing more than your personal opinion, but contains no facts to support it.

The 14th Amendment was designed specifically to ensure the rights of blacks in this country, due to treatment they had received as slaves.

It has also been “misused” by some to ensure blacks are not only “equal”, but “more than equal” (i.e. reverse discrimination through “affirmative action), as if past wrongs can be somehow reversed by the denial of rights to present citizens who had nothing whatsoever with slavery.

There is no moral way to justify such actions, or to put it more simply (i.e. on a level your mind can accept), “two wrongs do not make a right”.

That is a zero sum game for this nation.

Frankly, my “bullshit-o-meter” went off the scale on the amount of “rah, rah, sis, boom, bah” in this poorly written screed.

I was going to point out some obvious legal errors in your interpretation of the 14th Amendment, but frankly you have departed from reality so far there is no way I can cover it all in this venue.

Let me say your statement that “The Constitution enshrines certain rights and liberties as so important that they are above the politics of the day. Freedom of speech and religion, for example, are never put to a popular vote” sent shivers down my spine.

This IS about the “politics of the day”.

To characterize it any other way is to misunderstand the importance of the “politics of the day” in terms of how we govern ourselves. Notice I said not how we are governed. There IS a difference.

What you are arguing is that the federal government — actually, nine fallible men and women who are entirely above the law, and not subject to the US Constitution at all, but supposedly are able to determine what it means for this entire nation at any point in time — has the right to decide on its own and enforce “certain rights and liberties as so important that they are above the politics of the day”.

I wasn’t aware there are any “eternal truths” that all people everywhere would agree that are above the “politics of the day”.

What IS “enshrined” in the constitution is that this is a “democracy”, not a kingdom or dictatorship subject to the whims of a person or an elite minority who can decide for us what is right.

If you care to look at the history of the rulings of the US Supreme Court, you will notice they have made MANY mistakes in the past.

Let’s hope by this time the supreme court has learned enough about racial equality that they choose not to take that road again.

ANY nation that ignores the “politics of the day” risks putting itself in jeopardy of being overthrown by its own people.

As a matter of fact, that is exactly how the US Constitution came into being — or have you forgotten?

You are young and have the impatience of the young, but I suggest you tone down the inane “cheerleading” and do a reality check on what you are saying before engaging in more screed like this. It serves no useful purpose, but only tends to inflame what is already a “hot button” issue. One in which I believe we should move carefully and with deliberation.

Posted by EconCassandra | Report as abusive
 

By the way, you stated a “statistic” that I have seen repeated in several other articles.

“We have built a nationwide majority for marriage — 58 percent of Americans, according to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll”, but like the other articles you give no details, which means the supposed “statistic” lacks credibility.

For example, keeping in mind that poll “statistics” can be easily swayed by the manner in which they are taken, the most obvious question is who is included in your poll of “Americans”?

Does the term “Americans” include “gays” or only those who are not gay? Clearly, that would make a massive difference and skew the numbers accordingly.

Let’s just say I am highly skeptical of any “pro-gay” article (the only kind Reuters seems to carry) that argues a “statistic” like that without any clarification whatsoever.

Posted by EconCassandra | Report as abusive
 

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
  •