The Favorable Winds of Pride
I’ve spent most of the morning watching the House of Lords in Great Britain debate same-sex marriage. The legislation has already passed the House of Commons and is now awaiting approval from the upper chamber. Today was only the second reading and debate on a proposed amendment. And just last week, I watched as the Illinois House of Representatives decided not to vote on same-sex marriage, though the deadline for the bill was extended through the summer so it could be taken up if they were called back to deal with other pressing issues.
Both of these debates are on the heels of progress that has been made here in the US and in countries around the world. Just this year, in the United States, Rhode Island, Delaware, and Minnesota have approved same-sex marriage. Minnesota had just voted down a constitutional amendment in the November elections banning same-sex marriage. In all 12 states and DC allow same-sex marriages. As for internationally, Brazil, Uruguay, New Zealand, and France have approved same-sex marriage within the year. In all, thirteen countries have allow same-sex marriage with New Zealand and Uruguay to begin in August.
Despite opposition, the proverbial wind seems to be at the back of progressives and those in favor of equality. According to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted between May 1 – 5, 55% of Americans support same-sex marriage. This goes with an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll done in April that showed that 63% of Americans are in favor of the federal government recognizing same-sex marriages performed in states where it is legal. A Gallup poll posted on May 13, showed that same-sex marriage had an approval rating of 53%. Conservative columnist George Will once stated on This Week with George Stephanopoulos that opposition to gay marriage is literally dying off, and he is essentially correct with that statement. Polls continually show that the greatest opposition for same-sex marriage comes from those that are older than 65. Only 44% support same-sex marriage among that demographic. Those that are 18-29 years old, support same-sex marriage 81%. And as the older generation continues to die off and with the influx of the younger generation, we are already seeing a dramatic shift in this discussion.
Even the political divide is changing. It was the Labour Party that brought about civil unions for same-sex couples in Great Britain, but yet it’s the Conservative Party, led by Prime Minister David Cameron, that is supporting same-sex marriage. In the US, the needle is gradually starting to move. First it was only the most liberal of politicians that supported civil unions and then same-sex marriage, but time would tick by and even the moderate liberals (Democrats) would come to show their support. Independents jumped on board. It was the conservative side (Republicans) that are the hold-out as they have been baiting the voters that are against equal rights. But even that needle position has started to shift in our favor. First it was just the moderate conservatives that either hold elected office in predominantly liberal states or those that are no longer in office. Then, just this year, two sitting Republican Senators (both moderates) came forward to support same-sex marriage. They are Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL). Regardless of how they came to our side, we should be grateful to have a voice in our support that was once against us. It gives us that small breach in the wall of opposition that we have needed. With their help, we can now focus on other moderates to get them to come over our to our side… especially if they are from states that have approved same-sex marriage already or at least lean more liberal.
We have begun what is essentially referred to as Pride Month here in the US. And this year, we have even more to be grateful for and to have pride in. Through living our lives, telling our stories, and continuing the drumbeat for equality, we are making progress toward equality. Even with set-backs, we are continuing to push the conversation forward. We will continue to face opposition, bullying, false attacks, and more. But we will rise above such people and such offenses . We will continue to educate by just being ourselves and eradicating the stereotypes that still prevail. So as we celebrate pride, let us be thankful for all that we have and the progress that has been made, all the work countless people have done, and take a momentary pause in our quest to regroup so we are ready to get back out there and continue on.
The wind has filled our sails and we are being guided by the sun rising higher and higher in the sky. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. wrote, “The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.” So today, we will celebrate, and tomorrow, we will continue to move forward.