Sunday, June 26, 2011

After NY, is there any prospect of pushing for nondiscrimination in basic rights like employment and housing?


by Ken

The other night we saw Freedom to Marry's Evan Wolfson talking about marriage equality in a segment with Anderson Cooper. In the wake of yesterday's historic enactment of marriage equality by the New York State legislature, Evan tackles the queston on HuffPost: "The Freedom To Marry: What's Next After New York?"

Buried a number of paragraphs down is this key fact:
Fifteen years ago, only 27 percent of Americans approved of ending discrimination in marriage. But as gays and lesbians have talked with family and friends about why marriage matters, hearts have opened and minds have changed. Today, that number has literally doubled. According to a recent Washington Post poll, and confirmed by five other national polls, more than 52 percent of the public supports the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.

The New York development, Evan argues, "is a turning point for the country." Now he foresees:
We will secure the freedom to marry in more states. American history teaches that human rights and social justice movements must make gains at the state level, with some states serving as engines to tug the conversation and country forward. In every state (and every country) that has ended the denial of marriage to same-sex couples, support for the freedom to marry has only increased. People see with their own eyes that gays and lesbians in their state who get married share the hope and joy of other couples, and the heartfelt desire to make and strengthen a lifelong commitment to the person they love.

With each state win, we will inspire other states to follow. Republican support -- from Ken Mehlman, the former chair of the Republican National Committee, to Barbara Bush, the daughter of President George W. Bush -- was critical to passing the law through New York's Republican-controlled state senate. Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo was the indispensable champion of the marriage bill, speaking often of the need for New York to live up to history and once again lead the way for the nation. New York's bipartisan triumph for the freedom to marry signals a major shift in the national political calculus for both parties and points the way to more victories.

We will continue to grow the number of Americans who support the freedom to marry. Not only is there now majority support for ending discrimination in marriage, but the freedom to marry is riding a demographic wave. Roughly 60 percent of millennials -- voters under 30, who represent the largest generation ever -- overwhelmingly support marriage rights for loving, committed same-sex couples. Their support ranges across virtually every demographic, including Republicans and even evangelicals. Elected officials looking to the future, let alone history, see voters -- Democratic, independent, and increasingly, Republican -- who want them to stand for the freedom to marry.

And we will tackle and end federal marriage discrimination. Under the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act" stampeded through Congress in 1996 -- before gay couples could marry anywhere in the world --tens of thousands of legally married couples are denied the 1138-plus federal protection and responsibilities triggered by marriage, including Social Security, immigration rights and fair tax treatment.

With court challenges mounting, the Department of Justice concluding that DOMA is indefensible under the Constitution, and the Respect for Marriage Act now pending in Congress to repeal DOMA, history's gaze now falls on our leaders in Washington, D.C. (where couples can legally marry, thanks to a legislative vote last year) to do their part in securing the freedom to marry.

I just have one reservation, which it really isn't fair to direct at Evan Wolfson, since he's president of Freedom to Marry, and that's his issue, after all. Still, what I was hoping to hear was that this breakthrough might lead to progress on other rights currently unavailable to an awful lot of LGBT folk: the begining of the end of discrimination in employment, housing, and other basic rights that other Americans take for granted. In an awful lot of states -- as a rule of thumb, check out the red states -- legislatures not only aren't moving to lessen discrimination, they're working actively to expand and codify it.

A lot of LGBT people have found themselves watching the marriage-equality struggle with a sense of disengagement. Many people who daily experience the reality, not theory, of being subject to being fired or denied housing for being who they are, with no legal recourse and no relief in sight, have understandably voiced serious reservations about the near-exclusive focus on the marriage battle. The answer usually has been that this is the currently visible issue, and it has momentum, as those numbers Evan Wolfson cites document. The theory is that success here will carry over to those areas of basic human dignity.

Again, it's not really fair to direct this at Evan, since his issue is marriage equality. Still, you'd think he might have mentioned it. Or somebody else might have.

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At 7:00 AM, Anonymous Lee said...

I hope that someone studies the trajectory of how the bill got passed.

My own observations

Politicians like Cuomo and Gillibrand working behind the scenes. For real.Not saying one thing in public and doing something really different behind the scenes. Cuomo is a real leader.

The Pundittocracy/Pundit Industrial Complex pushing the polls and stories that showed Americans now don't care about gay marriage.


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