Why? Yesterday gay and lesbian couples in Iowa finally got to enjoy the many benefits of marriage, something that similar couples here in Canada and a select few other countries (and a few states in the US) can enjoy. It feels like the wind has changed. It is, as NYTimes Frank Rich says, The Bigots Last Hurrah. Vermont will start issuing marriage licenses on the 1st of September of this year. New York and New Hampshire are considering bills. Even the governor of Utah, called the “reddest state in the union” has said he backs civil unions for gay and lesbian couples.
There is a particularly poignant part to Steven Thrasher’s Advocate article I linked to at the beginning: He is a half-black/white gay man. His parents got married in Iowa in 1958, almost a decade before they were allowed to across the US, something the US Supreme Court had to order. It wasn’t until 2000 that Alabama removed the anti-mixed race marriage amendment from their constitution. Gay marriage faces many of the same arguments were raised against mixed-race marriages, something that the historically-black Howard University’s amicus curae to the Iowa court pointed out quite forcefully (PDF). But I think it was this paragraph from Steven’s article that said the most to me:
My parents did move to California to raise their children, believing life would be easier on the West Coast. I’m sorry my parents didn’t get to live to see Iowan Democrats make a zebra the winner of their caucus and send him on his way to the Oval Office. I wish they had lived to see the Iowa supreme court make gay marriage legal. The irony that their gay son — who has spent his whole life living in or near New York or Los Angeles — would be denied a marriage license in those über-liberal cities, but could now get one in Council Bluffs, Iowa, like they did, would not be lost on them.
Why does this issue matter so much to me? I am a single, straight (as far as I know), moderately well educated white man from wealthy neighbourhood in a wealthy city in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. It is because I am these things that I care. I am as unlikely as just about anybody to be discriminated against. Just because I likely won’t experience it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t care passionately about it. Former US Secretary of the Interior Carl Shurz said it best when he said
If you want to be free, there is but one way; it is to guarantee an equally full measure of liberty to all your neighbors. There is no other.
So yes, today feels a bit brighter. The course of equality is usually long and often comes with setbacks but in the end will be won.