Promising news about gay marriage?

By | February 13, 2004

There’s been a flurry of news stories about gay marriage in the last 24 hours. Most deal with the city of San Francisco giving marriage licenses to same-sex couples. San Francisco’s Mayor Gavin Newsom is giving his blessing to the marriage licenses being given, saying, “‘I’m not interested as a mayor in moving forward with a separate but unequal process for people to engage in marriages […] I think the people of this city and certainly around the state are feeling that separate but unequal doesn’t make sense.'”

A large part of San Francisco’s impetus to grant the marriage certificates is the ruling by Massachusetts Supreme Court’s ruling that banning gay marriage is unconstitutional. Since California’s constitution contains even more non-discrimination protection than Massucsetts’ constitution, odds are that the ban on gay marriage will also be ruled unconstitutional in California.

While this sounds promising, it does have conservatives clamoring even louder for constitutional amendments banning gay marriage. It is going to be hard to get these amendments passed, but it’s always a possibility. So I am heartened to hear political figures coming out against these amendments. The most surprising so far: Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper.

Hickenlooper continues to surprise me – he’s turning out to be quite progressive in his actions. Witness his stand on this issue – a stand he did not have to take. Politically, it might have been wisest for him not to say anything about gay marriage or the proposed amendment to ban it. Instead, Hickenlooper openly joined demonstrations against this amendment. Hickenlooper said, “‘in the context of government, same-sex couples in committed relationships should be entitled to equal rights such as the ability to visit a loved one in the emergency room.'”

This has been a good, promising couple of days for proponents of gay marriage. However, it is inevitable that conservatives will regroup, and will intensify the fight. This is turning into a critical year for this issue. While the majority of people favor legally recognizing gay unions (52% in most polls), only a small minority favor allowing gays to marry (24% in most polls). There is still a lot of work to be done.

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