Filed under: DOMA trials
By Scottie Thomaston
The people of the state of Virginia are now joining the ranks of those who support marriage equality (most recently, majority support was found in Michigan, and in Nevada in February.) The recent polls seem to match the overall trend reported by Pew Research and Gallup: Americans in all age groups increasingly support same-sex marriage.
Metro Weekly has the report on the Washington Post‘s Virginia poll:
A Washington Post poll of Virginians regarding various social issues shows that a majority of Virginians believe same-sex marriage should be legal, a finding that challenges other polls in recent years showing that marriage equality still lacks broad support across the commonwealth.
According to the Post poll, 56 percent of Virginia adults believe it should be legal for gay and lesbian couples to get married, while 34 percent think it should be illegal. Ten percent expressed no opinion. Among registered voters, those who thought it should be legal led by a similar margin, 56 to 33 percent.
The poll was conducted by telephone from April 29 to May 2 among a random sample of 1,000 adults in Virginia, including 887 registered voters and users of both conventional and cellular phones. Among registered voters, the poll has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.
According to the poll results, independents and Democrats are showing majority support (which is the same in most recent polls on the issue) but Republicans are not. Women and non-whites support marriage equality more strongly than men and whites. And 72 per cent of 18-29 year olds in the state support marriage equality, but only 22 per cent in that age group are in the opposition.
Metro Weekly interviewed the executive director of Equality Virginia about the poll:
In an interview with Metro Weekly, James Parrish, the executive director of the nonpartisan LGBT rights organization Equality Virginia called the results of the Post poll “exciting to see.”
“It’s definitely nice to see, but it’s something we expected,” Parrish said. “Support in Virginia mirrors what’s going on nationally. Hopefully, this will set Virginia up to be able to remove the marriage amendment and allow same-sex couples to marry in the state.”
Parrish noted that the strongest movement in support for LGBT rights has occurred among Republicans. He said that polling by Equality Virginia has also seen that shift among Republicans in its own polling, which explains why a bill supporting workplace nondiscrimination protections in state employment garnered stronger-than-usal support from Republicans this past legislative session. That measure passed the state Senate 24-16 before being killed in committee by members of the House of Delegates.
The Advocate also notes, via a Talking Points Memo report, that Arizona voters (who banned same-sex marriage by voter initiative in 2008) now support marriage equality by a fairly strong margin:
Even Arizona, where the legislature is currently considering a bill that would forbid transgender people from using the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity, is feeling the push toward marriage equality. Although Arizona voters overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in 2008, 55% of voters now favor marriage equality, according to a Rocky Mountain Poll released Wednesday and published at TalkingPointsMemo. Opposition to the freedom to marry among registered voters is just 35%, according to the poll. Support for marriage equality was high among women, Latinos, and voters under the age of 55. But even among voters older than 54, 46% support marriage equality, while 40% of the demographic is opposed.
TPM notes that support in the state transcends race, gender, and age:
Large majorities of women, Hispanics and voters under the age of 55 support same-sex nuptials. A plurality of voters over the age of 54 — 46 percent — supports gay marriage, while 40 percent of the group is opposed.
All of these states have LGBT-related lawsuits pending in federal court: Michigan’s anti-gay amendment is being challenged in federal court, while a case involving gay rights in Arizona is pending before the Supreme Court: Brewer v. Diaz involves an attempt by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to rescind domestic partnership benefits from same-sex state employees; she asked the Court to allow her to continue denying the benefits while the case is pending in the lower courts. No action has been taken in either case, and since the Court will decide cases involving Prop 8 and DOMA, no action is expected until June at the earliest.
In Virginia, the state’s attorney general has appealed a decision striking down the “crimes against nature” (sodomy) law as unconstitutional under 2003′s Lawrence v. Texas. The full appeals court declined to rehear the case.
In these states, it seems unlikely at best that marriage equality will be legalized without court action. Although voters are changing their minds, many of the state officials are socially conservative. But these lawsuits will probably proceed after the Supreme Court rules next month.
- Lawmakers in Minnesota who are supporting the marriage equality bill are considering a last-minute change to the bill, the addition of the word “civil” in front of “marriage”, in hopes of gaining the votes of legislators who might otherwise argue that religious institutions would be forced to perform same-sex marriages.
- In the UCLA Law Review, there are two notable articles on LGBT issues: Nan Hunter has written “Reflections on Sexual Liberty and Equality: “Through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall”“, and Douglas NeJaime has written “Framing (In)Equality for Same-Sex Couples”.
- In Pennsylvania, lawmakers have introduced two anti-discrimination bills aimed at protecting LGBT Pennsylvanians, this week. Think Progress notes that more than 70% of Pennsylvanians support these protections.
- The Advocate profiles some people who have been fired from their jobs for being LGBT, and explains the need for Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).
- Buzzfeed spoke with Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) about his views on LGBT issues like DOMA and ENDA, now that he has announced support for marriage equality. In response to a question about the criticism he received after announcing support for marriage equality only when his son came out, Portman said that he hadn’t thought much about marriage equality for same-sex couples before his son came out, but, he suggested, perhaps he should have.
- The Illinois GOP Chairman who recently announced his support for marriage equality has resigned from his position.
Bending towards justice: a reflection on President Obama’s marriage equality announcement, one year later
By Jacob Combs
Exactly one year ago today, President Barack Obama sat down in an interview with Robin Roberts of ABC News and said, “I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.”
One year later, those words still ring with the sound of history in the making, but they also seem almost unsurprising. As the saying goes, the arc of the moral universe (and President Obama’s public position on marriage equality) may well be long–and we are still seeing it bend towards justice.
When President Obama made his announcement last May, his words were couched in the careful language of the election-year politician. It was his personal belief, the president stressed, that same-sex couples should have the right to marry–a belief that did not necessarily mean that states should provide equal marriage rights to their citizens or that the president was referring to a fundamental constitutional right to marriage equality.
But then came the November election, when advocates of marriage equality in three states–Maine, Maryland and Washington–and opponents of a constitutional ban on equal marriage rights in Minnesota went to the ballot box. The Obama campaign had spoken out against the Minnesota ban in April, as he had against California’s Proposition 8 in 2008 and North Carolina’s Amendment 1 in 2012. But he had never taken a public position in support of a marriage equality ballot initiative. On a Thursday late in October, less than two weeks before the election, he did just that, issuing statements in support of all three state campaigns.
Despite these influential and very public statements of supports, LGBT advocates still eyed the ultimate prize: an unequivocal statement from the president that same-sex couples had a fundamental right to marry under the U.S. Constitution. Through the providence of political timing, the prime vehicle for such a statement was readily apparent: the Proposition 8 case, which was due for oral arguments at the Supreme Court in late March and which argued not only against California’s marriage equality ban, but against similar bans across America.
Obama and the Justice Department stayed mum as the days ticked closer to the deadline before which the DOJ would need to file a briefing in support of the Prop 8 plaintiffs with the high court. Advocates of equal marriage rights wrote that the President was being too cute by half by going public with his private views but stopping short of throwing the full weight of the U.S. government behind the biggest LGBT legal argument in a decade.
And then, late on another Thursday evening, at essentially the very last minute it could do so, the Obama administration filed its brief. If it wasn’t the total victory LGBT activists had hoped for, it came mightily close. “The exclusion of gay and lesbian couples from marriage,” the brief argued, “does not substantially further any important governmental interest.” Even though the DOJ’s filing did not explicitly call for the end of marriage equality bans across the U.S., its legal reasoning–in arguing for the more searching form of constitutional review known as heightened scrutiny–made that argument implicitly.
As we await the Supreme Court’s decisions on the constitutionality of Prop 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act sometime between now and the end of June, it’s clear that the marriage equality landscape has been fundamentally altered since last May. When President Obama sat down with Robin Roberts, six states–all in the Northeast, with the exception of Iowa–and Washington, DC allowed same-sex couples to wed. Just one year later, that number has nearly doubled, with victories for LGBT advocates in Rhode Island last week and Delaware this Tuesday. Two more states–Minnesota and Illinois–could very well follow in the next few weeks, and of course there is California, the most populous state in the Union, which could have marriage equality restored this summer.
Undoubtedly, many of these votes have had a demonstrably Democratic bias. Several Republican legislators across the country have stood up for equal marriage rights–including the entire (five-member) Rhode Island Senate Republican caucus–but by and large marriage equality has succeeded on the votes of Democrats. President Obama’s support has had an enormous impact, perhaps not on politicians’ private views, but certainly on their public position, as other Democratic politicians have fallen in line behind the president. At this point, for instance, only three Democratic Senators remain opposed to equal marriage rights. There’s nothing else to call that but a sea change.
But the question remains, for both supporters of LGBT rights and politicians who (now) support marriage equality, of what’s next. There are plenty of options: the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would protect LGBT individuals from being fired for their sexual orientation or gender expression, the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), which would provide protections to binational same-sex couples where one partner cannot currently sponsor the other for citizenship. In many states, transgender men and women are denied medically necessary treatments–and, in some cases, denied any health insurance–because of their gender expression. The rate of new HIV diagnoses amongst heterosexuals is declining across the U.S., but it is rising for men who have sex with men, especially in communities of color.
Marriage is an incredibly important and emotional issue. It’s no accident that support for marriage equality has swept into the hearts and minds of the American public–and, through them, to their politicians. But these politicians will soon face test votes that will demonstrate whether their support for equal marriage rights is based on principles of liberty and equality or an expedient reading of their constituents’ views. To take just one example, ENDA, if LGBT Americans should have the same right to marry as their heterosexual, cisgender counterparts, should they not have the same protections when it comes to wrongful termination?
On year ago, President Obama’s ABC News interview marked an inflection point in the marriage equality debate, and while it might yet take some time for the legal reality of equal marriage laws to catch up to the political reality, an undeniable shift has occurred. The LGBT community has many more milestones to look forward to, perhaps some of them with the help of this president. That will require the passion, patience and determination that we’ve already shown–the same qualities which led to President Obama’s historic announcement last May.