My heart skipped a beat when I awoke at 10:30AM PST, Tuesday November 18 to find that the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts had finally declared equal protection under the law and granted same-sex couples the legal right to wed. A tear had slipped from my eye, to think that history was being made and I had actually lived to see it.
Still, equally, there was a shadow of fear lurking beneath all the uproars of celebration. For one, the timing of this ruling couldn't have come at a worse time. Now that religiously conservative Republicans dominate all three branches of government, there's little to stop them from pulling an immediate reversal to this and such a move is high in the likely, given the current wake of desperation among the religious right.
Some have pointed out that the governor of Massachusetts, inspite of his objections, is powerless to trash the courtroom ruling, since it would take at least two years for the legislature to take action and they have only been given 180 days. But, have we not forgotten something more important?
We have climbed a new high in the past 5 years, but now, more than ever, much more than we have known is at stake. For one, there is already talk that uber-conservative religious groups in Massachusetts are planning on lobbying to get a Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) passed in the state to override the ruling and may set the marraige effort in the state back for decades. (Hey, if it can happen with Pete Knight in a liberal-dominated state like Califonia, what's to stop it from happening elsewhere?).
Secondly, some have heard, but perhaps forgot about the current far right attempt to get the Federal Marraige Amendment (FMA) passed. This ruling might fuel that fire and if it goes through, gay rights could be set back for generations. Domestic partnerships... civil unions... worker benefits... all could be obliterated with the soild stroke of a single pen.
Democratic presidential hopefuls have placed themselves in a rock and a hard place and the recent appointment of gay bishop in the Episcopal Church has roused some anger among religious conservatives. 2004 is right around the corner and the most recent polls are saying that:
>"Opposition to gay marriage has increased since the summer and a narrow majority of Americans also oppose allowing gays and lesbians to enter legal agreements that fall short of marriage. Moreover, despite the overall rise in tolerance toward gays since the 1980s, many Americans remain highly critical of homosexuals and religious belief is a major factor in these attitudes.
A 55% majority believes it is a sin to engage in homosexual behavior, and that view is much more prevalent among those who have a high level of religious commitment (76%). About half of all Americans have an unfavorable opinion of gay men (50%) and lesbians (48%), but highly religious people are much more likely to hold negative views.
Religiosity is clearly a factor in the recent rise in opposition to gay marriage. Overall, nearly six-in-ten Americans (59%) oppose gay marriage, up from 53% in July. But those with a high level of religious commitment now oppose gay marriage by more than six-to-one (80%-12%), a significant shift since July (71%-21%). The public is somewhat more supportive of legal agreements for gays that provide many of the same benefits of marriage; still, a 51% majority also opposes this step." (Source: The Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life)
Either we're going to have to step up our efforts and buck the tide, or, as the signs are telling, we may just lose everything.