Support for legally recognized same-sex marriage in the U.S. got a big boost in the November 6th national election. Voters in Maine, Maryland, and Washington exercised citizen power to legalize gay marriage in their states. With these three, there are now nine states with marriage equality, including Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York, plus the District of Columbia. Passage of these ballot referenda shows strengthening grass-roots support for legalized gay marriage, in contrast to the past 20 years. Previously, 32 states put gay marriage to a vote and it was defeated every single time.
Minnesota showed another sign of positive change in this election. It is the first state in which voters rejected a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, though such unions are still illegal there. Previously, 30 other states have gone the other way and have constitutionalized bans—a more challenging obstacle to equality.
As pointed out in my previous post, the shift of public opinion demonstrated in this election is just one more baby-step toward greater recognition and social acceptance of same-sex marriage and sexual diversity generally. Furthermore, gay-bashing in political ads proved to be a failure. The momentum toward tolerance shown in election results implies increasing acceptance of diverse sexual identities. U.S News and World Report online (Nov. 8, 2012) asserted that “Half of Americans believe their states should recognize marriages of same-sex couples.” The weight of public opinion may even encourage the Supreme Court to examine and rule on the constitutionality of the U.S. federal ban on gay marriage, DOMA—the Defense of Marriage Act.
While social change is excruciatingly slow, it is encouraging that more people can now openly, legally marry the person they love, whether opposite sex or same sex. As straight spouses, why should we care? Just this: These changing attitudes suggest that in the future there may be fewer married heterosexuals blindsided by the discovery that their spouses are secretly gay.
Though trends in this election may not directly help those straight spouses struggling through their crises today, the next generation should see fewer doomed mixed-orientation marriages based on deception and lies. May it be so!