Marriage equality winning after decades of struggle

More than 700 people rallied in Cincinnati on Aug. 5 and 6 in support of the right of same-sex couples to marry. On Aug. 6, a panel of three judges of the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals heard attorneys for couples in four different states make the case for marriage equality. In opposition, attorneys representing the state governments of Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee argued that those states’ bans on same-sex marriage should be upheld. The rallies drew people from all over the four states.

Only a handful of isolated individuals opposed to marriage rights were spotted on the day of the court hearing, perhaps counting on their prayers to protect so-called “traditional marriage.”

The particular circumstances of the courageous couples who brought suit in each state demonstrate how hurtful the denial of the basic right to marry really is. For parents, who are among the plaintiffs in all four states, it means that they and the children they are raising are not a family in the eyes of the law. For an Ohio man who lost his husband of 20-plus years — whom he legally married in Maryland — to Lou Gehrig’s Disease, it means not being named on the death certificate as the legal spouse.

Plaintiffs in Michigan and Kentucky have been fighting to get married in their home states, while the plaintiffs from Ohio and Tennessee want their marriages, already performed in other states, recognized in the states where they now live.

In each of the four states the state marriage bans were deemed unconstitutional in U.S. District Court. The states then appealed the rulings, all making the same bigoted, anti-lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender-queer and mis­ogynistic arguments.

“The state doesn’t have an interest in regulating friendships, [it] doesn’t regulate how many people can be in a friendship, or how long a friendship has to exist. The thing that changes, and the reason the state has an interest in marriage, is because marriage is linked to children,” said Aaron Lindstrom for the state of Michigan. “It’s rational for the state to have an interest in promoting marriage so that it will be more likely that a child will have both a mother and a father, and will have the benefits of having both a mother and father.”

Kentucky’s brief was even more ridiculous, arguing that “stable birth rates support long-term economic stability.” (MSNBC, Aug. 6) There was not much variation in the cases to uphold the bans in Tennessee and Ohio.

The other main argument was that the ban should be upheld because it was the will of the voters to pass constitutional amendments defining marriage as being between “one man and one woman.” That argument essentially means that the civil rights of any oppressed group can be denied whenever right-wing bigots can sway a majority to vote against them. Judges have overwhelmingly rejected that argument.

It is particularly ironic to hear the “voters’ rights” argument from Michigan, where two years ago the voters overturned legislation allowing the governor to appoint an emergency manager — a dictator — over any municipality or school district deemed economically challenged. Immediately the state Legislature passed a nearly identical bill, through which Gov. Rick Snyder has stripped democratic control from Detroit and other majority African-American cities.

The LGBTQ communities have been on a winning streak, with the District of Columbia and 19 states — where 44 percent of the country’s population resides — having legalized same-sex marriage since the win in Massachusetts 10 years ago.

This is not because the courts — historically defenders of the status quo when there is no popular movement to challenge them — have suddenly become enlightened. We are gaining ground now because, 35 years after the heroic Stonewall Rebellion, we have stayed in the streets and been uncompromising in demanding our basic rights.