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Love wins

Written By venus on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 | 11:26 PM

The Supreme Court of the United States have issued a pair of rulings that substantially give gay men and lesbians the right to marry and receive equal access to federal benefits and responsibilities. One ruling has the effect of allowing same-sex marriage in California, the nation's largest state. The other ruling overturns the 19-year-old Defense of Marriage Act. At a minimum it it seems to entitle couples married in equal-rights states to enjoy federal benefits, including the right to file taxes jointly and to receive Social Security survivorship benefits.

The end of DOMA does not affect states which don't already allow same-sex marriages. More litigation and more electoral actions will be needed to extend marriage rights to the entire country. In my home state of Pennsylvania, for instance, the demise of DOMA has no effect since Pennsylvania does not allow equal marriage rights.

I won't dwell on the specifics of the decisions. You can find the most thorough explanation (including the full text of the Court's opinions, an explanation "In Plain English" and commentaries by leading legal scholars from different points of view) at SCOTUS Blog. The effects of the rulings are still being sorted out, and it may be months before the two rulings are fully understood. But there is one crucial point: The change in opinion on same-sex marriage is occurring at a breathtakingly rapid pace.

Even those who believe marriage must be between a man and a woman because that is God's law are having trouble squaring their beliefs with logic. This graphic demonstrates this clearly.

With the ruling in the California case, by August 1 about one-third of the American people now live in states that allow equal marriage: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington State and the District of Columbia. The number of people having access to same-sex marriage has doubled within the past year.

Nationally support for same-sex marriage has risen consistently while those opposition has begun dwindling. Nate Silver of The New York Times' Five Thirty Eight blog has tracked the trend since 1996.

Nate Silver, Five Thirty Eight Blog

Silver also examined what would happen if a ballot initiative on same-sex marriage were put to voters in each state. In 2012, two states and the District of Columbia solidly favored equal marriage rights. Seven states, all in the South, were certain to oppose the referendum. By 2016, Silver forecasts 14 states solidly in favor while just Alabama and Mississippi solidly against. The rest of the states were somewhere in the middle. 

Nate Silver, Five Thirty Eight blog

The transformation in attitudes is in part due to the widespread acceptance of same-sex marriage among younger people. An ABC/Washington Post poll conducted in March 2013 found that Millennials (people ages 18 to 29) favor equal marriage by a four to one margin. Those in the middle generations (ages 30 to 64) favor equality at 56 percent. Among those 65 and older, just 44 percent favor same-sex marriage.

So is the trend in favor of equal marriage rights going to last? Will support grow? Based on the data, it seems so. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said: "The arc of history bends toward justice."

However, more work needs to be done to cement the gains achieved in the Court rulings Wednesday. For instance, many states do not have laws banning discrimination in the workplace. It indeed would be a Pyrrhic victory for someone to marry a same-sex partner only to have the boss learn of the relationship and fire the employee. This problem exists not only in the South. Many Northern states, including Pennsylvania, and several Midwestern and Mountain states lack anti-discrimination protections. 


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