The south is known for being very religious, traditional, and conservative, which has led many politicians and civilians alike to vehemently oppose same-sex rights. In recent days, however, the fight for same-sex marriage has raged in the south, and the results show what seems to be a shift in the average Southerner’s, and even the average American’s paradigm.
Earlier today, Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage was overturned, much to the celebration of supporters, and even Attorney General Mark Herring, who hailed it as a great day for equality in the state. A few days ago, a federal judge ruled that same-sex couples married in other states, but living in Kentucky, must be recognized by their state. Slowly but surely, the federal judicial system is righting the injustices written into the law books and state constitutions with regards to marriage equality and LGBT rights.
The fight against equal rights for LGBT people has always been largely political in nature, and in the early days it wasn’t so much of a fight as it was a fact of life – if you were openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, or trans, you were not granted full rights as an American citizen. That is not conjecture, it is the truth.
This paradigm held strong for a very long time, but the turning point for many Americans, politicians included, seems to have been when the Supreme Court ruled that two very prominent anti-gay bills were unconstitutional. The bills in question were DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, and Proposition 8, a bill that would make same-sex marriage illegal in California according to the state’s constitution.
A switch in the heads of many seems to have flipped that day in June, 2013, forcing them to reanalyze their stance on the topic. If the Supreme Court, the be-all-end-all of the American justice system, considers the belief system that these campaigns supported to be unjust, then there is one of two possible conclusions to draw: the problem is with the belief system and the thereby laws produced, like the Supreme Court’s ruling suggests, or that the problem is with the Supreme Court itself.
Many people were struck with the gut reaction that the problem was external to themselves, as humans are wont to do when faced with something that challenges something that is considered to be a fundamental part of who they are. However, the way the fight for same-sex marriage in the south has been playing out over the past few days seems to show a shift in the paradigm that the citizens of these states hold. The fight against progress for LGBT people is getting feeble, as federal judges overturn the injustices set into play by naysayers repeating the same arguments that they have been shouting for over a decade.
Last October Comedy Central’s The Daily Show featured a segment where corespondent Al Madrigal carried out a social experiment. He sent two men to walk the streets of a city in Mississippi and a city in Alabama and instructed them to act as a same-sex couple, holding hands and sharing small displays of affection. The politicians featured in the spot were adamantly opposed to same-sex marriage and LGBT equality in general, arguing childishly over which state would be the last state to succumb to the grips of marriage equality. The citizens that were encountered on the street, however, didn’t bat an eye. In fact, the couple was even praised by one man for being openly in love.
The segment was done in the name of comedy, so the tone is ridiculous and over the top, but the experiment served to show the people of these states are more accepting of same-sex couples than the image the state’s representatives project. More importantly, the segment showed that the politicians who very vocally oppose things like same-sex marriage and LGBT rights are wildly out of touch with their voters.
With people realizing that marriage equality and equal rights for LGBT people are things worth fighting for, and that it is illogical to oppose something that does no harm, even politicians who represent the states that are allegedly anti-gay are reassessing their views and changing their stances.
The fight for same-sex marriage in the southern US shows that the paradigm in the south seems to have shifted or be in the process of shifting away from disgust and hatred of LGBT people and towards acceptance. Politicians who are vehemently outspoken about their opposition of marriage equality are being taken less seriously, and gay couples in the most “homophobic” states are being cheered on for being themselves. The times, they are a-changin’.
Editorial by Robin Syrenne