2013 HAS BEEN A REMARKABLE YEAR FOR THE GAYS
This year will definitely go down in the annals of gay history as one of the most important. Like 1969, which saw the Stonewall Riots, or 2003 when Massachusetts became the first state to legalize marriage equality, 2013 will forever be known as one of the most important years in the fight for marriage equality.
It all began shortly before the New Year, when during the run-up to the presidential elections, President Barack Obama made history by becoming the first president in U.S. history to give his support for marriage equality. He had already done much to support our community, but had stopped short of supporting full marriage eights, a move many saw as purely political, as President Obama had supported gay marriage back when he ran for the senate seat in Illinois.
Then, during the election, several states had ballot initiatives on marriage equality. History was made yet again when the votes came in in our favor. In Maryland, Maine and Washington, voters approved gay marriage. In many other attempts in the past, ballot initiatives had proven to be a death knell for marriage equality, but this time things changed. Adding to an amazing night at the polls, voters in Minnesota refused to ban gay marriage, opening that state up to laws that would allow equality there. Each of these four states joined with the other states that had already legalized marriage equality. 2013 got off to an amazing start.
By March of this year, the Supreme Court had signaled that they would be ruling on two cases dealing with marriage equality. They waited until the very last day of their 2013 spring term, June 26, to release the rulings but they both came just in time for gay pride, and oh, what a pride it was this year. In United States v. Windsor, the judges struck down crucial parts of the Defense of Marriage Act, ruling that couples that are legally wed in states allowing marriage equality are eligible for all federal benefits granted to married couples. In the case, Edie Windsor sued because she was forced to pay inheritance tax on money that her legal wife left her after she died. If Windsor had been married to a man, she would not have had to pay taxes on the money. She claimed this was a violation of her constitutional rights and the court agreed. In the second case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, the court ruled that the petitioners who were bringing the case to court, didn’t have legal standing to bring the case, and therefore ruled that the California Supreme Court’s ruling that Proposition 8 violated California’s Constitution would stand. This ruling effectively re-legalized marriage equality in the nation’s most populous state. Edie Windsor was given a hero’s welcome and served as the Grand Marshal to New York City’s Gay Pride Parade.
Thankfully, the gay train didn’t stop there, just last month, New Jersey became the 14th state in this great country to legalize gay marriage when the Supreme Court upheld a ruling that forced the state to start recognizing the marriages as of October 21. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vowed to appeal the ruling, but withdrew his appeal once the state Supreme Court issued its ruling supporting our community and marriage equality.
This month, Illinois passed a law legalizing marriage equality, becoming the 15th state where we can legally wed. Illinois was a hard-fought battle with little to no certainty — the legislative session had taken a recess for months earlier this year before the final affirmative votes took place. But in the end, the gay people of this nation were victorious.
Hawaii legalized gay marriage as well, bringing the number of states with marriage equality to 16 (but the 15th to enact the law, in just a few weeks; Illinois couples will have to wait to wed until June). Twenty years after a state court decision signaled that gay couples should have the right to marry, it finally became reality. This is one of Democrat Governor Neil Abercrombie’s crowning achievements, and it was also one of his campaign promises, after gay rights advancements stalled during the eight-year tenure of the previous governor, Republican Linda Lingle.
Despite a desperate attempt to kill the bill by a fundamentalist Christian minority, it passed in the Hawaiian Senate with just four votes against. The vote was closer in the House but a filibuster-proof majority passed the bill, even as an out lesbian legislator, Jo Jordan, curiously voted against it! She instantly became a pariah on the Internet.
Laws are being debated in several other states as well and it looks like New Mexico, which has no law requiring marriage to be between one man and one woman, will become the 17th state with equal marriage rights. The HRC (Human Rights Campaign) has vowed to continue the fight for marriage equality and has announced their goal of all 50 states in five years.
One thing is for sure, the tide has changed in the past few years in America and we are definitely winning the fight. Every day we convince more people that we deserve the same rights as everyone else, but we MUST continue to fight. We have won several battles but the war is not over. We can’t quit until the entire American LGBT community can hear wedding bells and we all can enjoy the rights that only some of us get now.