By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Gay marriage trickle needs to become a flood

Gay marriage advocates march in San Francisco

Following New York’s legalization of gay marriage, more than 11 percent of the U.S. population — 11.37 percent — now lives in an area where same-sex marriage is a right, according to U.S. Census data. New York, with a population of nearly 19.4 million, was a huge victory in the movement toward marriage equality. Take away New York, and the percentage drops to just a shade over 5 percent. Jurisdictions where gay-marriage is now a right, with populations, are:

  • New York, 19,378,102
  • Massachusetts, 6,547,629
  • Connecticut, 3,574,097
  • Iowa, 3,046,355
  • New Hampshire, 1,316,470
  • Vermont, 625,741
  • Washington, D.C., 601,723

The total U.S. population is 308,745,538.

To this day, the largest setback was California’s Proposition 8, which killed off that state’s nascent right of gay marriage. If California’s more than 37 million people were added, then the proportion of the country where gay marriage is recognized would rise to 23.4 percent, or nearly one-fourth of the national population.

According to the New York Times, the next most likely states to recognize gay marriage are Maryland and Rhode Island. That would inch us up to nearly 13.6 percent. Progress, yes, but slow progress. Although I don’t believe the majority should hold sway over basic human rights, the fact is that 53 percent of Americans now favor same-sex marriage.

Gay marriage harms no one, and is a vitally important substantive and symbolic benefit to gay and lesbian couples. A trickle isn’t good enough. Let’s hope that what happened in New York opens the floodgates.

Photo (cc) by AJ Alfieri Crispin and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

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  1. Stephen Stein

    If I recall correctly, same-sex marriages still aren’t recognized by the Federal government for the purposes of Federal marriage benefits (for tax purposes and otherwise).

    And I think we still have a situation where 30 or so states have laws saying that same-sex marriages AREN’T valid (no matter that the couple may have been legally married before moving there).

    These situations are unacceptable and have to be solved at the Federal level. Repeal of DOMA (or recognizing that it’s unconstitutional) is the first step towards true equality for all.

  2. John Keith

    The duplicity and hypocrisy of elected and wanna-be elected public officials is part of the problem.

    Saying that DOMA is wrong but that states should individually decide whether or not to allow same-sex marriages is a con. Obviously, they are only concerned with getting (or staying) elected. Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney, and Ms. Bachmann, I’m looking at you.

    It’s not as if they are born anti-Federalists; they are opportunists.

    It’s shameful that New York gays and lesbians would buy into what the President is shilling. Saying he’s “evolving” on the issue of gay marriage is even more pathetic than those who argue against it.

  3. Melissa Perreault

    I heard a conservative opponent on NPR this morning saying quite confidently that the same sex marriage movement has already reached most of the “low hanging fruit” (i.e. solidly blue states), and he predicted it would now hit a wall. I’m trying to remain optimistic, but I fear he may be right. So long as Federal Government does not recognize same-sex marriages, and so long as over 40 states define marriage as one man and one woman, and 30 have specific Defense of Marriage amendments in their constitutions (note, I’m quoting Wikipedia here, and haven’t verified the data), what we see here is just a few meager bones being thrown to a class of people being profoundly discriminated against by the laws of our land.

  4. Stephen Stein

    You wouldn’t think this was such a big story if you were watching Fox. Surprised?

  5. C.E. Stead

    FWIW – there may be value in allowing states to decide this matter, as on a national level gay marriage would likely be prohibited at this time, and a cosntitutional amendment would stand a good chance of being ratified.

    Marriage laws have traditionally been different from state to state. Consanguity, age of consent, conditions of divorce, medical tests, waiting period, etc. – all differ. It’s why people went to Reno for divorce, Maryland to get married, Louisiana to get married young. The only difference here is that Federal statute DOES recognize a marriage that is legal in Arkansas but not legal in Wisconsin. Rather than Federal legalization, it might be wiser to press for Federal recognition.

    And as far as the argument about ‘voting on a right’ – women had to wait until 1920 to vote. Their right to vote took 60 years to accomplish, and was only granted by persuading that right to be recognized by those who COULD vote – i.e., men. But because it was granted by a consensus vote rather than a court decision, it hasn’t been questioned since. Time will decide the issues of gay marriage.

    As for myself, I think that ‘marriage’ is not the business of the state, other than as a way to legally change your next-of-kin. We do not have laws regarding baptism, communion, etc. We should repeal MGL Chapter 25, and put a registration/dissolution of partnership protocol in its place, and leave ‘marriage’ to churches and spiritual authorites to celebrate or deny as they see fit.

  6. Sadly, as Rhode Island’s Gov. Lincoln Chafee told The New York Times, the state’s large and elderly Catholic population has been an impediment to progress on gay marriage. “The church has been very active in calling the Legislature,” Chafee said.

    So we get a very watered-down civil-unions measure passed, which gives Catholic hospitals, for example, official permission to discriminate against gay people.

    It’s just frightening that one religious group, to which I don’t belong, btw, has so much power over a legislature that’s supposed to uphold civil – not religious – law.

    I am thrilled, however, for all of my friends in New York, people in long-term, committed relationships, who now have the ability to get married.

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