With the Massachusetts Legislature on the verge of repealing a 1913 law that’s made it difficult for out-of-state gay and lesbian couples to marry here, we’ve reached a remarkable moment in the rise of same-sex marriage — more remarkable than perhaps most people realize.
Yes, only two states allow same-sex marriage: Massachusetts and California. But, since May, the state of New York has recognized same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions, making it possible for New York couples to marry in, say, Canada or Massachusetts.
The combined population of Massachusetts, California and New York is 62.2 million — nearly 21 percent of the total U.S. population of 299.4 million. That means one in five Americans lives in a state where same-sex marriage is recognized.
California voters might repeal same-sex marriage this November. But given that the state’s Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, opposes the anti-marriage referendum, there’s reason to be optimistic.
A final observation about Massachusetts. Yesterday’s state Senate vote to repeal the 1913 law was unanimous. The vote in the House is expected to be overwhelming. Can we finally stop the charade that gay marriage was forced on us by “unelected judges,” as critics inevitably charge?
It may have taken the state’s Supreme Judicial Court to start the debate. But last year opponents failed to win over the mere 25 percent of legislators needed to place the question on the ballot. And now our elected legislators are taking the final steps toward normalizing same-sex marriage, secure in the knowledge that most of their constituents either support marriage equality or don’t strongly object.
More: Esther offers some observations at Gratuitous Violins.