Sunday, February 19, 2012

Same-sex marriage: is it triumphing?

Twenty years ago, I joined an Internet discussion group that was mainly concerned with the issue of same-sex marriage. Of course we were for it. In 1993 there was euphoria, as Hawaii seemed to be moving firmly in that direction, and it was thought that, following the “full-faith and credit” clause, gay marriage would be almost immediately available in all fifty states.

Of course things did not turn out that way, and it became evident that a long, hard slog lay ahead of us. In the interval, of course, much has been accomplished. California will soon be a done deal, and Maryland and New Jersey cannot lag far behind.

But is euphoria warranted, at long last? According to Andrew Sullivan today, “the country is edging relentlessly toward accepting the humanity of gay couples and our marriages and relationships.” Would that that were so. What we actually seem to be confronting is somewhat different, reflecting a reinforcement of the blue-state/red-state dichotomy. Iowa is an anomaly, while elsewhere in the heartland resistance is hardening. Unfortunately, thirty-one states have constitutional restrictions limiting marriage to one woman and one man.

Once the liberal coastal states are won--as they must be--a further long, hard slog awaits. Only when same-sex marriage exists in all fifty states will the panoply of federal benefits be assured.

At least there is hope in the United States. In the rest of the world I am not so sure. So far things are breaking out into two big blocs. The first consists of Western European countries, Canada, and some Latin American countries. The second bloc, officially and relentlessly homophobic, predominates in sub-Saharan Africa (except for South Africa) and the Middle East. In this way the US split mirrors the global one--at least for the present,



Anonymous Thomas Kraemer said...

As somebody who joined the University of Minnesota law student Jack Baker's fight for gay marriage rights in 1970, I would like to be optimistic that we are at an inflection point toward full marriage equality. (Baker's name is on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling still being cited today, which said gay marriage is a matter for the states to decide and it lacked a substantial federal question.) However, as an Oregon resident, I watched President Bush, as part of his reelection strategy, put anti-gay marriage constitutional amendments on the ballots of many states, including Oregon. These amendments can't be undone without lots of money or a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, both of which are unlikely. Bush and Karl Rove knew what they were doing because the Constitutional amendments helped Bush, even though it barely passed in Oregon and many other states. Today's polls suggest it would be easily defeated because Oregonians have become more liberal as they've watched the State of Washington legalize gay marriage. I am more interested in understanding how gay activists from the 1970s evolved from openly hating Jack Baker, by calling him a lunatic for supporting gay marriage that goes against the political goals of gay liberation and sexual freedom, to embracing the present day gay agenda of full marriage equality. Virtually no gay right group in the 1970s would even acknowledge Jack Baker's work, even though he appeared in Life Magazine and other national mainstream news magazines. Some national gay rights groups actively worked against Baker's gay marriage activism. Yes, perhaps Baker hurt the cause of gay marriage by going to the U.S. Supreme Court too soon, as I directly heard his law professors warn him, but I do not see any evidence of any harm in hindsight. Today, I still meet nationally recognized gay historians who do not want to mention Jack Baker in their history books because they still hold the grudge that he was a jerk to them decades ago. Of course, Minnesotan's view these types of slights as another case of "back East elite activists" ignoring those "farmers in the Midwest." Minnesotans are used to it. In my opinion, Jack Baker was not a lunatic, but a genius for seeing that gay marriage would be the key issue for gaining equality. I hope Jack Baker will get more credit in gay history for his pioneering work.

2:47 PM  
Blogger Dyneslines said...

Although I never met Jack Baker, I fondly remember his courageous stand. Where is he now?

As long as we are giving out demerits for homophobia as practiced by politiciansm it ought to be recalled that DOMA was passed under Clinton, who ran ads in the South boasting of this "achievement." Today DOMA lies at the root of all our troubles in this realm.

4:57 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home