As of 11:54pm Pacific Time, voters have come down in favor of marriage equality in Maine, Maryland, and Minnesota. It hasn’t yet been called in Washington State, but marriage equality is in the lead so far. It’s looking increasingly likely that marriage equality will be four-for-four in the popular vote tonight.
For years, same-sex marriage opponents have been saying that SSM has never won a popular vote. Those days are over, folks.
Final update of the night: Washington State probably won’t be called until tomorrow, but since marriage equality is currently ahead, and most of the votes yet to be counted come from the Seattle area, it will be shocking if marriage equality loses.
So in four separate popular votes tonight, marriage equality has won. I think this is the most important single date for marriage equality in the USA since 9 years, 4 months, and 19 days ago, when the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that the right to marriage could not be denied to same-sex couples.
At the time, same-sex marriage opponents claimed that judges, not being an elected legislature, had no democratic legitimacy. Of course, once legislatures began voting for marriage equality, SSM opponents declared that only a popular vote can confer legitimacy. So it goes; I’m sure a new definition of legitimacy will be forthcoming from NOM shortly. Same-sex couples will never be good enough to marry, in NOM’s view, and hurdling their arbitrary thresholds has never been what matters.
Many SSM proponents say that it’s an insult to queer people’s dignity for their rights to have to be voted on at all. I agree with that. And yet… I see it as a necessary and unavoidable insult. I don’t believe in natural rights. Rather, I believe that we have the rights that our governments recognize and are willing to enforce. Which means, in a democracy, that we have the rights we’re able to persuade our fellow citizens that we have.
So although I recognize that it is, it absolutely is, an insult to dignity that rights are voted on, I also recognize that the heart of this system is persuasion. We were in a horrible country in which queers were almost always reviled, and queer rights nonexistent. How do we make that into a better country? I can’t imagine a better system for change than persuasion, even thought it’s wrong that queers had to ask for rights at all. As Churchill famously said, “Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried.”
The four victories tonight don’t matter because of what SSM opponents say. They matter because they are the result of the truest, most reliable source of rights: the recognition of those rights by the society.
When I was a kid, it was widely accepted that homosexuals were sick at best and perverted and predatory at worse. I remember how Billy Crystal’s gay character on the sitcom “Soap” seemed shocking – sure, he was written apologetically, and the writers couldn’t wait to turn him straight, but that he was presented sympathetically at all was revolutionary.
There’s a zillion battles left to fight, but: Look how we’ve changed. Look at how queer children were once taught that they were fundamentally disgusting and unworthy of love, which is, I am convinced, absolutely the cruelest thing to do to any person, a wound that festers in people for decades, or lifetimes, and a wound that can easily be mortal. That still happens, but more and more that model has been replaced. Look at how parents were once taught to be ashamed of their queer children, and to be ashamed of themselves for their alleged parenting failure. Look at all the queer adults who had to live their entire lives in secret for fear of being fired, or hated, or attacked, or just out of misplaced shame.
Look at how radically all that has changed, just in my lifetime.
Look at how today, voters in four states overcame their fear of the new, and overcame the nightmarish predictions of SSM opponents, and overcame the historical weight of decades of bigotry, to vote for equality. Equal laws, not separate and unequal. Equal citizenship, not second-rate citizenship. Equal rights.
When I think of the world for queer children when I was born, and compare it to the world queer children are born into now, it amazes me that things have gotten so much better in such a short time. I am an atheist, and still I tell you, it is the most miraculous thing I have ever witnessed.
With 46% of the vote counted, it appears that Maine’s Question 1 has passed, and same-sex marriage will be legal in Maine.
The other three marriage measures (in Maryland, Minnesota and Washington) are still too early to call, but currently same-sex marriage is winning in all three states. I’ll update this post as further states are called.
UPDATE: Marriage equality wins in Maryland! According to MSNBC. Congratulations to the voters of Maryland.
UPDATE: Marriage equality wins in Minnesota! The AP has called it! Minnesota’s anti-SSM amendment has lost. Congratulations to the voters of Minnesota.
UPDATE: Oh, also, Tammy Balwin has won the race to be Wisconsin’s next Senator. She will be the first openly gay Senator in US history.
UPDATE: Not totally on-topic, but both women running to Represent New Hampshire in the House of Representatives won. Since both New Hampshire’s Senators are women, this makes New Hampshire congressional delegation the first entirely female Congressional delegation in US history.
UPDATE: Iowa voters retain Judge David Wiggins. Judge Wiggins, who as a member of the Iowa Supreme Court was one of seven justices who ruled for marriage equality, had been targeted for removal by anti-SSM activists.
UPDATE: I suppose I should mention, for the sake of completeness, President Obama’s reelection. Obama is the first American President to endorse marriage equality while in office, and it doesn’t appear that NOM’s prediction that his stand would cost him votes came to fruition.