On Monday, December 2nd, gay couples could marry legally in the state of Hawaii, marking the 16th state that has legalized same-sex marriage in the United States. The Hawaii State Legislature held a special session that ended on October 28th and Governor Abercrombie signed Hawaii Senate Bill 1 on November 13th, setting same-sex marriages to become legal on December 2nd.
This year has been a huge year for same-sex marriage in the United States. Not only has there been a huge increase in public support, primarily among youth, but the country has made huge strides legislatively, as well. Seven states legalized gay marriage in 2013 (including Illinois, which is set to take effect on January 1, 2014). If we look back in recent history, Massachusetts was the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004, and the second state (Connecticut) didn’t legalize it for another four years. Then in 2009, Iowa and Vermont followed suit. Clearly, the cause has picked up at a rapid pace. And looking towards the future, we can see prospects for the same fate in New Mexico.
The issue has received a massive amount of exposure this year both in the legislature and in the press. In August, Jason Collins of the Washington Wizards came out as gay, and just the other day British diver Tom Daley did the same. Obama has also hugely increased the number of openly gay federal judges and ambassadors. In addition, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which aims to end discrimination in hiring based on sexual orientation, passed the Senate just a month ago. While it doesn’t look like it will pass the House, it still has aided in bringing the issue to the national spotlight. On the other hand, the Supreme Court ruled that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prohibited same-sex married couples access to federal marriage benefits, such as an exemption from the estate tax and the ability to file joint tax returns with the IRS.
The growing national support of same-sex marriage is being seen everywhere. In April of this year, the Penn Dems and College Republicans released a statement that asserted their joint support of same-sex marriage. This particularly mirrors the sentiment of the youth in the United States. In a CBS News Poll conducted in March 2013, it was found that in 73% of people in the United States between the ages of 18 and 29 think that it should be legal for same-sex couples to marry. Nationally, a Gallup poll taken every year since 1996 has shown consistent growth in support for same-sex marriage every year. Currently, it is at an all-time high of 54%, compared to 27% when the question was first asked.
The strong support for legalization, particularly among the youth, will inevitably usher in a new era for same-sex marriage. In fact, a Pew Research poll conducted in May 2013 found that 72% of Americans “say that legal recognition of same-sex marriage is ‘inevitable.'” The road for legalization for gay marriage is similar to many great societal changes in the United States. As the abolition of slavery, voting rights for Blacks and for women and interracial marriage all initially faced great opposition, so has gay marriage. It is an issue that, I predict, will become widely accepted in the future. Homosexual people are everywhere: in politics, academics, entertainment, and athletics. Denying them a fundamental right like marriage is a stance that I predict will fall out of favor, as did the other great societal issues of the past I mentioned. In particular, the GOP will most likely have to respond to criticism for “not being in the 21st century” and holding on to traditional and outdated views. With the public support growing, it will only become more of a problem for the GOP.
Photo courtesy of Lance Agena on Flickr