We are all too familiar with California and Proposition 8 (titled “Eliminate the Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry”). But I doubt you are familiar with the 2004 election and the 20 other such amendments that were passed that year! Propositions titled as “Alabama Marriage Amendment”, “State Issue One” (Ohio), and “Mississppi Marriage Amendment”.
The 2004 election saw the Bush-Cheney ticket running it’s course against democratic contender John Kerry. Now at the time, Marriage Equality hadn’t been an issue really since 1996 when the United State Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in lieu of Hawaii having legalized it (for a day, before it’s own State Legislature outlawed it).
But the US Supreme Court had, in 2003, decided ‘Lawrence v. Texas’ which made it unconstitutional (and thus illegal) to enforce the 14 sodomy laws still on the books in the United States. One of the Supreme Court justices had written in his dissent (written opinion against a ruling) that ‘Lawrence v. Texas’ took away the legal reasoning in denying marriage rights to same-sex couples. That and the fact that Massachusetts had legalized the next year, in early 2004 in the case ‘Goodridge v. Department of Public Health.
These events shook up a wasps’ nest of homophobic activity within the nation. Hate crimes against gays and lesbians rose, and Conservatives went on Air to deride homosexuals as “pedophiles”, “corrupters of the youth”, and “persons that tear at the fabric of society”. The RNC, seeing the advantage in getting out the vote in an election year, then coordinated over 20 marriage amendments over the subsequent months in a number of swing-states in the south and midwestern United States. Conservative Catholics and Evangelicals swamped the polls on election day.
In Ohio, despite the fact the over $942,000 was spent in opposition to Issue One, the amendment passed with 61% of the vote. To that end, it is suggested that it was because of that referendum in Ohio that Bush got reelected as it energized social conservatives and got out the vote in favour of the Republican Party, to which end no Republican president has gotten elected without Ohio since Abraham Lincoln. And after all, it was the RNC (Republican National Convention) that assisted and endorsed the marriage amendments.
The Democratic base also split during the election. At the time only about 30% of Democrats were in favour of Marriage Equality (preferring civil unions instead). John Kerry (himself a supporter of only civil unions, as was George Bush) lost the election by a wide margin and none of the 20 plus amendments introduced were defeated, nor were the other 10 passed before 2004 or after.
What made Prop 8 in California so different was that it rescinded those rights which had been previously granted (Marriage Equality only lasted 7 months).
But the American public in general was, at the time, only in favour of it by a small margin. Only 36% were pro-equality. Since then, it has grown to 52%!
And this year, we may see Maine, Maryland, Washington vote for marriage equality in referendums legalizing it! Which has never been done before! And we may see Minnesota vote against a proposed anti-marriage equality amendment which also has never before happened! And we may see Ohio hold a referendum in November 2013 to repeal the amendment it passed in 2004 (which wouldn’t legalize marriage equality, but would make huge headway. Next it’s laws against equality would either have to be struck down by a court or legislatively repealed)!
We are still awaiting Prop 8 to be struck down (we may know if the Supreme Court will deny review, thus leaving the 9th Circuit Court’s judgment that it’s unconstitutional in place. Or if it will want to review the case further, thus expanding the wait ‘til late next July.) and we are also waiting for the Supreme Court to strike down sec. 3 of DOMA (which outlaws federal recognition of same-sex marriages) and for Congress to repeal the Act completely (erasing it from the books and requiring all states to recognize such marriages).
The gay Civil Rights Movement is at the beginning of the end! Marital discrimination is getting attacked now and the federal government is making progress on ending anti-LGBT discrimination in the workplace the School.
Soon the religious-right (NOM, PFOXX, Side-B, and Side-X) will all just be a bad memory. Like the people who opposed interracial marriage, opposed abolition, and opposed women’s voting rights.
But for now we have to wait until the day comes when we have our civil rights and acceptance in all places.