Toward Marriage Equality: Books as Reflections and Agents of Change

 Exposure to New IdeasWith the oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor (relating to the Defense of Marriage Act) and Hollingsworth v. Perry (relating to California’s Proposition 8) scheduled this week, same-sex marriage has been the focus of nearly every media outlet I follow. On Facebook, my friends churn out continuous commentary on what the Court may or may not do in these landmark cases. Everyone has an opinion.

The only people in my life who don’t seem to care about the issue are my children, who are far too young to grasp the discrimination at the heart of these cases. To them, a family with two moms or two dads is just another family. That family looks different from their own family, but they know “it’s okay to be different.” In fact, as I’ve discussed before, Todd Parr’s It’s Okay To Be Different is one of their favorite books and one of many books we have that reflect and reinforce the importance of embracing diversity.

 Is it any wonder why individuals resistant to change attempt to remove books like Parr’s from library shelves and school curricula? The exposure to new ideas can be a very dangerous thing for the close-minded and insecure. I can only imagine how “scary” the world must look to the Rick Santorums of the world who want to return to the days when every state criminalized same-sex sexual activity. That was only fifty years ago.* The Defense of Marriage Act, which allows states to refuse to recognize other states’ same-sex marriages, is only 17 years old, and California’s Proposition 8, defining marriage as between a man and a woman, is only five. But progress has been made, too, with a growing number of states recognizing same-sex marriages and civil unions.  Now, polls indicate strong support for same-sex marriage among Americans born within the last 32 years.

 Whatever the Court decides to do in Windsor and Hollingsworth — which could be anything from maintaining the discriminatory status quo to striking down marriage bans — I believe our society will continue, in the long term, on the path towards justice and equality, and societal acceptance of same-sex couples will continue to expand. I hope my own children’s inclusive attitudes are an indication of what the future will hold.

*Those interested in this topic may want to check out my friend Theo Fenraven’s ghost story, A Silence Kept, which reminds us all not to romanticize the past. Quite frankly, I would prefer to live in the future.

UPDATE (3/26/13):

Facebook SnapshotThe U.S. Supreme Court heard the oral argument in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the case challenging the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8. Justice Kennedy, often the swing vote, wondered why the Court agreed to hear the case at all, and Lyle Denniston has said that Kennedy “appeared troubled about the Court entering ‘uncharted waters,’ on the core issue of who may marry.”

In my opinion, if the Court punts this case, they are a bunch of cowards. Marriage is a fundamental right in our Constitution and not something we should determine by popular vote, state by state.  That said, popular opinion is shifting in favor of marriage equality, with more support for same-sax marriage than opposition to it, and this issue may be another example of how unrepresentative our Court is of the American people. We’ll see what side of history they want to be on.

By the way, because I mentioned Facebook in this post, the image on the left is a snapshot of what  my page looks like today (for those who don’t know, the equal sign shows support for same-sex marriage).

UPDATE (3/27/13): The U.S. Supreme Court heard the arguments in Windsor, the DOMA case. It is likely DOMA will be struck down.

UPDATE (6/27/13): The U.S. Supreme Court announced its rulings in Windsor and Perry. In Windsor, in a 5-4 decision, the Court court struck down DOMA. In Perry, the Court avoided the issue on jurisdictional grounds, thereby allowing gay marriages to resume in California. Overall, a good day at the Supreme Court (after an otherwise dismal term for anyone who isn’t a corporation), but it doesn’t change the fact that my home state continues to discriminate against gay couples. We still have a lot of work to do (at least now we have the broad language in Windsor to help us along!).


  1. I agree with you that marriage equality is inevitable. The more people realize that they know queer or gay people, the more in favor they are of full equality. There will certainly be both individual discrimination and structural barriers to full opportunity for sexual (and gender) minorities, but marriage equality is powerful enough to increase opportunity and legitimacy in other areas of life. I’m hoping. I’m generally optimistic and only get mad about it when I listen to or read anti-marriage equality opinions and arguments. Which I clearly should just stop doing.

    1. I don’t come across anti-marriage equality arguments anymore. I just don’t know anyone willing to admit that they think marriage should be between a man and a woman. The arguments among my friends are about what the court will do and whether this issue should be addressed through the courts or through the legislatures. I’m sure I can find anti-marriage equality arguments elsewhere, but I tend to avoid irrational and bigoted websites.

  2. 50 years from now, my, I hope it’s a lot sooner than that! More western countries than not have already legalized same-sex marriage, or at least civil unions. Happily, public opinion seems to be changing faster than politicians in the U.S. Here in Canada, it’s been legal for a number of years, with the recognition that it is a human rights issue. My fingers are crossed as well.

    1. I hope it’s sooner than that, too! I am optimistic we’ll have legalized same-sex marriage in all or nearly all states relatively soon (I hope we don’t have to go state by state), but it may take longer for discrimination/bias against LGBTQ individuals to disappear, particularly in certain parts of the country.

  3. Thanks for the book mention. As for living in the future… I just began writing a story set in 2173. I don’t think we’d like to live in /this/ future. Many changes have been wrought, and not all for the better. 🙂

    1. You’re welcome. I really liked your story. As for the future, at least the one you’re writing about is fiction. I’m sure there will be tough times ahead in real life, but I’m optimistic that we’re headed in the right direction on many issues that are important to me. I have a lot of faith in the young.

  4. I am always cheered by what children think about things that adults find disturbing. Like you said, to them having two mommies or two daddies is normal and most probably a very loving relationship because of how much they were wanted in the first place. It was in July 2011 same sex couples could marry here and there was not the fear and disapproval one would have thought to occur. It happened very unceremoniously with only one religious picket. I attended the first mass wedding and put images on my blog. Everyone was so happy despite the rain that fell.

    1. Kids’ open-mindedness is very comforting to me, too. Your description of NY after the same-sex marriage law went into effect really shows how ridiculous the Rick Santorum types are when they make it seem like the world will end as a result. Justice Alito even said today that we don’t have enough data on the effect of same-sex marriage on children and the on the institution of marriage. Seriously, what do they think is going to happen? Are the kids in MA, NY, and other states with same-sex marriage any worse off than the kids in PA or MS? It’s ridiculous. This is not an empirical question; it’s a constitutional question about a fundamental right.

  5. I hope than 50 years from now, same-sex marriage be as accepted and inevitable as interracial marriage, and these cases will be the curiosities that Loving v. Virginia is – in a “can you believe this was ever illegal?” head-shaking kind of way. Bravo to you for teaching your girls that families are families no matter what they look like!

    1. Yes, it’s hard to believe that 50 years ago, marriages like mine were prohibited in some parts of the US. It’s also hard to believe that Mississippi hadn’t ratified the 13th Amendment until this year! Seriously, marriage equality isn’t something that can be left up to the states.

  6. I am reminded of my disabled autistic son’s graduation a couple of years ago that almost did not happen. They did not “want to include” him because he could be too much of a disruption to the the other kids who were graduating from high school. We fought long and hard for this memory for our family. Unfortunately by the time we had the school agree to allow him to walk with his classmates with his one on one para educator it was too late for any of our parents to buy tickets to fly out for it. We are thankful to a news channel for making the calls to the school district on our behalf to treat our son as an equal. I suppose the point I am making is that battles are worth the fight in the long run. It did not go perfect for us, but maybe just maybe the next kid will get a better break than Luke did..

    1. It’s awful that the school would try to deprive your family of such an important experience! You’ve made a difference not only for your son but also for many other children. These battles are worth fighting. Thanks for sharing, Alesia.

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