A Win For Love
Same-sex marriage is affirmed
It was less than 20 years ago, during the 2004 election, that the cynical Republican political guru Karl Rove used “gay marriage” as a divisive cultural wedge issue to help reelect George W. Bush to the presidency.
Four years later, beholden to the conventional wisdom of political calculus, neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton felt they could publicly support gay marriage without severely damaging their chances in the general election.
But yesterday, the United States Senate affirmed same-sex marriage in big, bipartisan fashion.
The Respect for Marriage Act now on the way to becoming law could be seen as an insurance policy should the Supreme Court toss aside precedent by overturning the right to same-sex marriage as it did with abortion. This law stipulates that even if states subsequently pass laws outlawing same-sex marriage, they would have to recognize unions that are performed in other states, and the federal government would, as well. Just for good measure, the bill also included the protection of interracial marriage.
In order to garner Republican votes, there were some concessions in the bill. They center on religious institutions and what services they would have to provide. But in terms of the big picture, this is a major milestone — a win for empathy, inclusion, and hope.
As we talk about steadiness in this newsletter, it is important that we celebrate the victories as well as mourn the defeats.
It would be wrong, however, to see this bill as signifying a uniformly high-water mark for LGBTQ+ rights in the United States. Our political discourse on this issue is going backward in some dangerous ways. The hate and divisiveness emanating from the former president and his supporters include demonization of the LGBTQ+ community. Much of this chilling rhetoric — and as we just saw in Colorado Springs, violence — is targeted at the most vulnerable subgroup, the transgender community. Drag shows are a particular target for ire on Fox News.
Many Americans are uncomfortable with the subject, while others are conflicted in their feelings. But the overwhelming majority of people in this country is opposed to discrimination against minorities. Empathy for the marginalized among us is a goal of the modern American ideal. And we know that vigilance and solidarity are required to turn back the tides of discrimination.
What the passage of this new law does represent, however, is that progress is possible. The courage, resilience, and tenaciousness of those fighting for LGBTQ+ rights for decades changed the hearts and minds of millions of Americans. Yes, there was a generational shift on this issue, but the speed with which same-sex marriage has gained widespread acceptance means that individuals who were once against it — in both political parties — switched their beliefs. As friends and family came out and were married, more and more Americans saw that love really is love.
Twelve Republican senators confirmed this truth with their votes yesterday. They preemptively rebuffed the reactionary justices on the Supreme Court. The bill will now pass the House and be signed into law by President Biden. It is a singular achievement for all involved. And it is one that would have been unthinkable just a decade ago.
As we look to our country’s future, let us remember that the good fight, on the side of civil rights for all Americans, can be, and often is, a winner.
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