Marriage equality continues to expand in states across the country. Reaping the harvest of decades of intense and persistent struggle by LGBTQ people for equal rights and an end to discrimination, eighteen states now recognize the right of same-sex couples to marry, most recently the Western states of New Mexico and Utah.
On Dec. 20, U.S District Judge Robert Shelby struck down a Utah constitutional amendment that limited marriage to opposite-sex couples, ruling that the 2004 voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S constitution. Subsequently, in response to an attempt by the right-wing zealots in the Utah state government to delay the implementation of the ruling, there have been three court rulings denying a stay, one from Shelby and two from the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, opening the way for same-sex couples to exercise their right to marry throughout the state. The State of Utah is appealing on the stay to the U.S. Supreme Court as it plans its appeal of the ruling.
Since Friday, hundreds of Utah couples have lined up to obtain marriage licenses, turning usually somber government offices into places of festive celebration and ceremony.
At the Salt Lake City office, Peter Brownstein, a Boy Scout leader who was reprimanded and driven out of his troop for attending the Salt Lake City Pride March in June of 2013 in his Boy Scout uniform, brought pizzas to the waiting couples, accompanied by his 14-year-old son Michael, an Eagle Scout.
In Utah, the center of Mormonism, whose hierarchy has supported all over the United States efforts to ban outright same-sex marriage with campaigns of millions of dollars and hateful propaganda, the feelings of victory and jubilation over the recognition of basic civil rights permeated the atmosphere in Salt Lake City and elsewhere in the state.
On the other side, opponents of marriage equality were in shock. On-line postings for and against filled Utah cyberspace: “Utah. Boy Scouts. Delivering Pizzas. To Support Gay marriage. The End!” lamented Joanna Brook online in the blog Religion Dispatches. (CNN)
In another stunning victory for marriage equality on Dec. 19 the New Mexico Supreme court unanimously ruled that it is unconstitutional to deny a marriage license to same gender couples.
The determined struggle of New Mexico’s very large LGBTQ community was the crucial factor in this victory. New Mexico statutes don’t explicitly deny or authorize same-sex marriage. Due to the organized struggle of the New Mexico LGBTQ movement and its supporters, clerks in eight of 33 counties starting issuing licenses in August after a county clerk independently and courageously decided to grant the unions. At this point, officials asked the high court to clarify the law in order to standardize policy on same-sex marriage.
These justices had previously declined to rule on the issue but the strategies of the movement and the acts of supportive individuals paved the way for this historic ruling in New Mexico.
New Mexico is the first state in the Southwestern region of the country to recognize same-sex marriages, and the ruling has stirred enthusiasm among activists in the surrounding Southwestern states.
Duck Dynasty debacle
Coincidentally, in what could be seen as a sign of the desperate status of the homophobic, anti-marriage equality right-wing movement, the patriarch of the TV reality show “Duck Dynasty” Phil Robertson, spoke out against homosexuality in the most crude and bigoted way possible, comparing it to bestiality and other vile things. Equally deplorable, this icon of hate then went on to spew overt racism by openly supporting racist Jim Crow America, and the racial segregation that existed before the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Robertson, claiming to speak as a Christian, slandered and defiled millions of LGBTQ people in a tirade aimed at whipping up anti-LGBTQ sentiment among extreme right-wing forces. Bigots from the right lined up to support Robertson, calling for defense of his “free speech rights.” Sarah Palin, one of the first to jump on board, later admitted that she had not even read Robertson’s statement before she tweeted her support for the rant all over the country. Many spokespeople from the LGBTQ community and supporters correctly pointed out that hate speech aimed at inciting violence against any group is not protected under the constitution.
This event, in contrast with the overwhelming growth in support of LGBTQ equality, shows that there are still bigots and racists who are looking to spread their messages of hatred and division. It illustrates that, contrary to the assertions of some, the struggle against racism, sexism and homophobia is far from over, and that broader united struggles among all those who are exploited and denied justice in the United States will be necessary in the future, until every battle is won and true justice prevails.