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Rob Horowitz: Supreme Court Fuels National Push for Gay Marriage

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

 

Watching Ralph Reed, Chair of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, articulately and aggressively make the case against same sex marriage on Meet the Press this past Sunday put an exclamation point on the plain political fact that opponents of same sex marriage are ‘not going gently into that good night’ in the wake of last week’s Supreme Court decisions striking down the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and restoring same sex marriage in California, our nation’s largest state. In fact, anti-gay marriage activists plan to use these decisions to reenergize their movement making the argument that the Court has overreached and interfered in a matter that should be decided democratically by the people—a familiar case that has worked in the past on other social issues such as abortion and school prayer.

So, despite last week’s good news, there remains a long hard state-by-state fight ahead before all of our gay and lesbian fellow citizens can receive true equal protection under the law and enjoy the same right to marry as the rest of us. But what a long way our nation has come on this issue and in a relatively short period of time.

After all, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is not some ancient statute that enshrined 19th century prejudices into law. It was adopted in 1996, less than 20 years ago, passed both Houses of Congress with overwhelming bi-partisan majorities and was signed into law by President Clinton. DOMA banned federal recognition of same sex marriages and explicitly denied the benefits of marriage such as joint tax filing and Social Security survivors’ benefits to same sex couples,

The important practical impact of the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling last week invalidating DOMA is that legally married same-sex couples are now entitled to all the federal benefits of marriage previously denied them. For the 13 states, comprising one-third of the American population, that have enacted gay marriage including Rhode Island and the same sex couples that have been legally married in these states, these marriages have been tangibly enhanced. There will no longer be as famously described by Justice Ginsberg during oral arguments in the DOMA case, “two kinds of marriage; the full marriage, and then this sort of skim-milk marriage.”

Last week’s Supreme Court decisions reflect a dramatic shift in public opinion on gay marriage. In 2004, only 31% of Americans supported same sex marriage, while 60% were opposed. Now, less than ten years later, there is a solid national majority in support of same sex marriage. Republican Pollster Jan van Lohuizen explains this pronounced shift in public opinion: “As more people have become aware of friends and family members who are gay, attitudes have begun to shift at an accelerated pace.” People with family members or close friends who are gay or lesbian are twice as likely to support same sex marriage as those who do not have a close relationship with someone who is gay, according to the PEW Research Center.

With the Supreme Court unlikely to revisit the issue of same sex marriage in the near future, the fight returns to the states As the Washington Post reported on Sunday, among the anticipated next battlegrounds are Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico Oregon, Iowa and Indiana. These Supreme Court decisions put more wind at the backs of gay rights activists who are likely to grind out many more victories in the coming years.

 

Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.

 

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