In the short time that I have been in Washington DC, America has undergone some drastic changes. Since President Obama was inaugurated, I have seen numerous progressive steps taken on pet issues of mine, such as women's rights. One of the very first bills that President Obama signed, for example, was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 - ensuring a more fair fight for women who felt that they had been discriminated against.
Another issue that has exploded back onto the scene, however, is that of gay marriage.
In what appears to be an effort influenced by the women's rights activists who fought the battle of the ballot in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, gay marriage activists have taken their fights to the states, rather than focus their efforts on sweeping national legislation.
In the aftermath of the travesty that was Prop. 8, it might have appeared to some that the gay rights movement had suffered a fatal blow. It just didn't make sense...California, a long time strong hold for liberal politics and gay activists alike, had banned gay marriage . Thankfully, activists in other states refused to see this as the final nail in the coffin, and continued their efforts until in early April the unimaginable occurred :Iowa overturned their ban on same sex marriage. What was even more surprising was the zeal with which Democratic lawmakers in Iowa backed this decision. Rather than shy away from a politically divisive issue, they released a statement voicing full support for the ruling, and hailing it as a landmark decision for civil rights in their state.
Following this occurrence and the subsequent legalizing of gay marriage in New Hampshire and Maine, it became clear that Iowa was not a fluke. With this realization, it is important that one thing is made clear to not just Republicans, but Democrats as well:
Gay marriage is going to happen. Period.
Up until this point, the general attitude of folks that I have spoken to who were in favour of gay marriage (and myself, for that matter) seemed to be one of unsureness and anxiousness. With these recent steps forward, however, I think it is important that we who are fighting for gay marriage begin to change the way that we debate the issue.
With the understanding that gay marriage can and has happened in rural Midwestern states such as Iowa, I think it is important that when talking about it in the future, we offer those opposed to gay marriage an option. We need to say "Listen, this is happening, whether you like it or not. You have two choices. One - you can get with us on this, and look like you're finally coming to the realization that gay folks are folks just the same and that you're in favour of actual equal rights. Or two - you can keep fighting us on this and eventually become an obsolete part of your party that is loathed by contemporaries and historians alike (e.g. Strom Thurman)."
This isn't, however, to imply that we who are in favour of gay marriage can rest on our laurels. Our continued effort and activism will be needed to push many states over the edge...I merely suggest that rather than harbor the mentality of a struggling activist group who no one listens to, we adopt a tone of inevitability in order to turn the tables on those in opposition to gay marriage. Rather than constantly have to explain ourselves, let us finally allow the bigots to stand in front of a crowd and explain why they aren't getting on board the train that has already started moving away from the station. The public has finally starting leaning towards supporting gay marriage - it is time that we hold our leaders accountable for their inaction on such an important issue of civil rights.
Mark my words: the children of my generation will view those who oppose gay marriage with the same disdain that we view segregationalists. It is only a matter of time until this mentality becomes the norm.