The month of October started with a huge leap forward for the gay marriage movement in America. The five states of Indiana, Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia and Wisconsin all had their appeals to ban gay marriage rejected by the US Supreme Court Justice, Anthony Kennedy. A day later, a sixth state, Colorado, also struck down barriers taking the total number of states with legalised same sex marriage to 30. This comes later than the original 3 pro-gay American states: Maine, Maryland and Washington, which legalised same-sex marriage in 2012.
With these developments in the same sex marriage movement, over half the country and well over half the population live in a state with legalised gay marriage and according to CNN Analyst Jeffery Toobin, this “makes it inevitable, it seems, that the rest of the country will follow”.
However, just as progress seemed imminent, the gay marriage movement was struck by a damaging blow. Merely two days after expanding gay marriage legalisation by another five states, the Supreme Court put same sex marriage on hold in Idaho and Nevada. This decision brought about much disappointment as well as delight across a country where gay marriage is an issue that divides America both ideologically and geographically.
Northern states tend to have a more liberal perspective and so are more open to the idea of allowing a union between gay couples. Indeed the first three states to allow same sex marriage in 2012 were all northern states. However, they face an equally strong opposition from conservatives who tend to originate from the South and Mid-West. For years, these conservatives protested that the ‘traditional family’ and its values were under attack. Fierce warnings that radicals were seeking to upend a biblical institution helped to lure Christian conservatives to the polls to back Republican candidates, and secured gay-marriage bans in dozens of states. Same-sex marriage continues to be controversial across the United States, but the recent legalisations in Indiana, Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia and Wisconsin are undeniably steps forward in the liberal movement.
With these recent developments in the same sex marriage battle it seems that it will become an important issue in the upcoming midterms, which take place on the 4 November. Several conservative leaders such as Ralph Reed of the Freedom and Faith Coalition have stated, “for candidates running in 2014, there will be no avoiding this issue”. However, despite the attention the movement has received in the past few weeks, recent polls suggest that same-sex marriage is no longer the wedge issue it once was and that it may be fading from the political scene.
In the early stages of the gay marriage campaign, there would often be parallels drawn with the civil rights movement of the 1960s because it was such a provocative issue. They talked of same-sex couples unable to enjoy the same tax breaks as married couples and other such legal disparities. This was initially effective at mobilising support for the movement, however now gay marriage has become a widely accepted issue, it seems ridiculous to compare gay couples with the struggles of fire hoses and night-sticks that African-Americans once endured half a century ago.
Many gay marriage campaigners believe that what they must do now is work to change the perspectives of the Republican Party and other conservative campaigners. Now that the movement has won over 30 states, many Republicans feel compelled to be more open towards the idea of gay marriage. A recent poll suggests that 40% of Republicans now support gay marriage. What campaigners now aim to do is ensure that this figure is reflected across the entire country, before the issue of gay marriage completely fades from American politics. The achievements in same-sex marriage continue to be significant, however it is a change in attitude towards it that will be a true victory for same-sex couples.
Photo credited Ludovic Bertron