Zinnia Jones explains just how important it is that marriage equality made gains in state ballot initiatives this year. This is what I’ve been thinking, but she goes into further detail:
State-level gay marriage bans have a long, ugly, depressing history. Until now, the result was completely predictable whenever it was put to a popular vote: we lost. 30 to 0. Then 31 to 0. Then 32 to 0. It had become a crushing regularity for us, and our opponents knew it. This became their talking point: “every time same-sex marriage is on the ballot, the people vote against it.” And it hurt because of how true it was. It wasn’t entirely unexpected when North Carolina and Maine were the most recent states to vote against equality. But when California passed Proposition 8, that really stunned us. If even the people of California wouldn’t vote in favor of gay marriage, then who would?
I remember that talking point’s role in the debates.
It was part warning, part jeer. It was about telling us both that we were wrong, and that it wouldn’t matter if we were right because they’d beat us anyway.
The implication was that the popular vote was the only thing that counted, that marriage equality wasn’t legitimate unless it passed a voter referendum. And since no voter referendum had yet broken in favor of equality, that supposedly meant same-sex marriage was un-American.
The thing is, people can change their minds over time.
So, when the Maryland legislature passed a bill for same-sex marriage, the Enforcers of Tradition started promising to put the matter to a voter referendum this year, thinking that would take care of THAT little slip-up.
Meanwhile, the discussion of civil marriage raged on, the Really Bad Arguments were taken apart, and the polls showed increases in support for equality with each passing year.
So when we had pro-equality legislation, followed by yet another vow to put civil rights up to a popular vote, I looked around my state and I said, “You know what, homophobes? Bring it on! Let’s do this!”
Sure, they put civil marriage rights on the ballot. In the meantime, President Obama went on-record saying gay couples should be able to get married. I suspect that helped.
I thought this would be the year when Maryland would be the first state to uphold marriage equality by a popular vote.
It’s even better that we’re tied with Washington and Maine.
This is the year, not only that SSM was able to win the popular vote at the state level, but that it did so in three states at once, AND another state voted not to let their ban on SSM get any worse. This is the year that there were multiple victories for equality and NO LOSSES.
For the first time – ever – they’re the ones who are left reeling the day after. They’re the ones who will have to struggle to explain how they lost.
I don’t think it should be a struggle to explain at all. They lost because there are no good reasons to deny civil marriage to same-sex couples. The longer we fight over the issue, the more obvious it becomes to more people that the case against is made of paranoia, bad history, superstition and bigotry. They lost because they’re wrong.