New York’s watershed bill

Marriage-equality law is tipping point in gay rights

New York’s passage of a marriage-equality bill is a tipping point in the long struggle for gay rights. As Gov. Mario Cuomo said, the law is on the right side of history, and so is the state.

There, as in so many other states, public opinion regarding marriage equality has been changing dramatically in recent years. Just seven years ago, in 2004, a Quinnipiac poll showed that 37 percent of the state’s residents supported allowing same-sex couples to wed; this year, the figure was 58 percent.

New York is now the largest state to approve marriage equality; inevitably, others will follow. States with laws that ban same-sex marriage are on the wrong side of history, and eventually those laws will be overturned.

The New York victory has sparked talk in California of mounting a challenge to Proposition 8, the 2008 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in this state. A lawsuit challenging its constitutionality is doing well in the courts, but it has a long way to go. Even if the U.S. Supreme Court agrees it’s unconstitutional (a big if), the process could take years.

It is still possible to get a bill overturning Prop. 8 on the November 2012 ballot. We’d like to see that happen and believe it would pass.

For one thing, polls show that a majority of California voters now support marriage equality. And remember that Prop. 8 passed with only 52 percent of the vote, and proponents won by mounting a deeply cynical campaign designed to convince voters that same-sex marriage would enable teachers and other gay authority figures to indoctrinate children in the “gay lifestyle.” Anti-Prop. 8 forces failed to respond effectively to this demagoguery—a good part of the reason they lost. That won’t happen again.

A lot has changed since 2008. Society is more open, more tolerant (think Glee) and, as New York has shown, more convinced that the right to get married should be available to all citizens, regardless of sexual orientation.