Thursday, May 8, 2008

Same-sex marriage breakthroughs ahead, experts say

PrideSource: Same-sex marriage breakthroughs ahead, experts say:

The events of the next few months "can truly transform the arc of our movement" for marriage equality, civil rights attorney and LGBT advocate Evan Wolfson told a symposium of the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists meeting in Washington, D.C. on May 3. "With a little luck and some real hard work, the next year is going to put us in a very different place."

He said the question of "whether couples who have made the commitment in life should continue to be denied the commitment in law that is called marriage" is likely to be answered by the California Supreme Court in a matter of weeks, and in Connecticut within months.

Wolfson placed the California deliberation within the context of the 60th anniversary of the Perez decision when that court, by a 4-3 vote, became the first in America to strike down race restrictions on marriage.

"Human beings are not interchangeable like trains; it is not as if denied the right to marry the person you love, you can catch the next one," Wolfson said in reviewing the language of the Perez decision. "People are precious to us. The person you chose to build your life with is irreplaceable to you. Human beings don't fall in love with categories, with races, with sexes - we fall in love with a person, and that person is precious to us."

According to Wolfson, the proper questions for the courts and our fellow citizens are, "What business does the government have placing obstacles in the path of people seeking to care for one another? Why should the government dictate who is the right kind of person for you to marry when this is the person you love?"

"The essence of the right to marry is freedom to join in marriage with the person of one's choice," the California court concluded in the Perez case.

Wolfson noted that when the Perez decision came down in 1948, a survey found 90 percent of Americans opposed to interracial marriage. When the US.. Supreme Court struck down all remaining state laws banning interracial marriage in 1967, in the aptly named Loving vs. Virginia, 70 percent of Americans still opposed the practice.

"We are doing much better" on marriage equality for gays and lesbians in the court of public opinion where opposition has declined to roughly 50 percent, he said. And in some states there is majority support for that equality.

"It is happening because we are giving the American people the information they need, over time, to embrace fairness and move in the right direction. It is happening because we didn't assume it couldn't happen, and we didn't write people off."

Wolfson said the non-gay movable middle of the American public generally is waiting for us to bring up the subject. And too often we fail to do that with our family, friends and coworkers. "In this chicken and egg of silence, we are failing to give our non-gay circles what they need and deserve to rise to the better angels of their nature," he said. "We must break that silence and we must do it now."

"The most important way to helping people get there (to supporting marriage equality) is by making it real... . Information over time is the recipe for social change."

Social conservatives have submitted a ballot initiative to amend the California Constitution to prohibit gays from marrying and it appears likely to be on the November ballot. Wolfson said the community must raise a minimum of $10 million to wage a public education campaign against the amendment.

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