The fight for same-sex marriage keeps good company. It began almost 42 years ago on Oct. 10, 1972, when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the denial of a Minnesota couple’s right to marry. That couple’s fight began in May, 1970, when a clerk refused to issue them a marriage license because they were gay. In Jan. of 1973, Maryland became the first state to pass a law banning marriages of same-sex couples. Much has changed since 1973 and the time will come for same-sex marriage.
This may seem like a long time, but the anti-slavery and civil rights fight took 417 years for the 14th amendment to be ratified, which made blacks citizens. Rhode Island started the movement in 1451 when it declared that all people enslaved who had served 10 years were to be made free. The ratifying of the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution did not mean the fight was over. In some ways, it had only just begun, but it serves here as a comparison time.
The movement for women’s suffrage lasted from 1840-1920 when the 19th amendment was ratified. Three years earlier, New York and Arkansas allowed women to vote in primary elections. The fight that Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton started took 80 years of hard work and dedication to come to fruition.
In comparison to women’s suffrage and anti-slavery movements, the fight for same-sex marriage is still in its beginning stages. Although it has come a long way since 1973, its time is now in the 21st century. In Sept. 1999, California became the first state to create a statute to give same-sex couples some partnership protections. Though it was not a substitute for marriage, it was considered a step in the right direction for same-sex couples.
A few months later, in Dec., Vermont created an official civil union that gave same-sex couples many more rights than before, but still not all to which heterosexual married couples were entitled. This became effective on July 1, 2000. In fewer than 30 years, two states made it possible for same-sex couples to have legal rights as a couple.
Massachusetts, on May 17, 2004, became the first state in the U.S. to allow same-sex couples the freedom to marry. For three years, opponents to the law tried to overturn it, but 75 percent of the legislature agreed to support marriage equality in 2007.
In Aug. 2010, CNN released a poll that showed a majority of Americans (52 percent) were in favor of same-sex marriage equality. Another poll in Sept. by the Associated Press also found that 52 percent of Americans were in favor of government acknowledgment of same-sex marriage.
A third poll completed in Mar. 2013 showed the support for same-sex marriage had risen to 58 percent. One year later, it rose again to 59 percent in support of equal marriage rights for all. Further, it showed that 40 percent of Republicans supported marriage rights for same-sex couples.
On May 20, 2014, Pennsylvania became the 19th state to rid itself of a ban on same-sex marriage. People tend to want immediate change, but major societal changes take time. Same-sex marriages’ time will come just as it did for women’s suffrage and the ending of slavery.
Opinion by Sara Kourtsounis