Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Why we need the courts: equality comes to a halt.

Although marriage equality has lept ahead of late, we're about to come to a screeching halt.
Recent victories have given same-sex marriage advocates hope that the tide has turned in their long-running fight for marriage equality, given the number of states approving same-sex marriage has doubled since Election Day 2012. 
But 36 states still ban such unions, and there’s little sign of change in those states anytime soon. 
While national public opinion polls show Americans warming to same-sex marriage, voters in many states remain staunchly opposed. And even where the politics and sentiment have changed, bans enshrined in many state constitutions could prove especially difficult to overturn — exactly the reason opponents pushed for constitutional measures in the first place.
 Those anti-equality amendments in state constitutions are going to be hard to change one by one....and some of them are not going to change at all.  From the Guardian:
Republicans have at least partial control of all the legislatures near the border and in the deep south. ... Republican control is a big deal because though the rest of the country has moved, Republicans, especially southern Republicans, have not. Only 26% of Republicans support gay marriage. The percentage of Americans in favor of same-sex marriage rose by 15pt over the past decade; the percentage of Republicans favoring gay marriage only rose by 3pt over the same period. That's a growth rate of only 0.3pt a year. 
...With the exception of Virginia, it's pretty clear that southern Republican support for gay marriage is lower than among Republicans nationally. As such, it's difficult to see how support among southern Republicans will hit 50% anytime before 2040. It's hard to imagine more than the stray Republican voting for same-sex marriage. Polarization is at all-time high, and politicians are more afraid about losing primaries than general elections. Republicans have no need to vote for same-sex marriage. 
Thus, unless the federal government jumps in, most, if not all southern states won't legalize same-sex marriage for the foreseeable future. Most of their citizens don't want it, and by the time they do, most Republicans still won't. Considering you'll need a majority or supermajority of state legislators to get the bans reversed, and that Republicans have a strong hold over these chambers, same-sex marriage in the south doesn't have much of a chance anytime soon.
The same thing happened with anti-miscegenation laws.  They essentially only remained in the south, until the Supreme Court's Loving v. Virginia decision finally eliminated them.  (And, tellingly, Republicans in the south still oppose inter-racial marriage).

Despite the pace of change, most court watchers think that SCOTUS will not make any sweeping decisions about marriage.  The best we can hope for is that Prop8 falls in California, but even that is uncertain-- and depending on the nature  and scope of the decision, it may only apply to the two couples who brought the case.

But it is clear that until SCOTUS DOES make such a decision, marriage equality will not be the law of the land, because of the frankly retrograde south.

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