Off Main: Watching the spread of gay marriage from New Hampshire
How much has changed, and how quickly.
When our neighbor to the south, Massachusetts, became the first state in the country to make same-sex marriage legal a decade ago, it was difficult to know what to think. I was concerned. As a gay person, I worried that marriage equality might be a distraction. What about employment nondiscrimination law? What about the rights of gay men and lesbians to simply be themselves, much less get married?
And for a time, my qualms seemed to be well-founded. State after state passed constitutional amendments banning gay marriage. Even in New Hampshire, a legislative panel recommended changing the constitution to bar same-sex marriage.
But tempers cooled, although not entirely. And over a period of years, things changed. Gay marriage came to Iowa. More states, including New Hampshire, joined Vermont in offering civil unions. Some called them marriage lite, but I was happy to have the recognition.
In 2008, I drew a full-page comic for the Monitor about my and my husband’s civil union ceremony. Our editor, Felice Belman, called me at Wendy’s to tell me she was deluged with responses. Some were positive, but many were negative (never mind the fact that the comic page never even showed a hug, let alone a kiss).
I was taken aback. But the furor quickly dissipated. The very next year, New Hampshire passed its own gay marriage bill. Again, I wondered if it was too much too soon. But the bill made it through, Gov. John Lynch signed it, and the world went on.
My husband and I made sure to convert our civil union to a marriage quickly when 2010 started.
I was alarmed by the prospect of repeal efforts. But they came to nothing that year, and didn’t amount to much even with a Republican supermajority in 2012.
Our son was born in 2011, and I wrote a series about the adoption process last year. It appeared on the front page of the Monitor for two days, and this time we received no negative response at all. I was surprised. What had seemed shocking only five years before was now routine.
Across the nation, the change has only accelerated. The states passing civil union bills eventually became states passing gay marriage bills. In the 2012 election, voters backed same-sex marriage laws in several states. And last year the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the central section of the Defense of Marriage Act, allowing for federal recognition of gay couples’ marriages.
Subsequent court cases have swept across the nation at dizzying speed. It feels a bit odd watching the changes from a place where the issue has already been settled, but it’s certainly heartening.
The Supreme Court will be weighing in again soon, from the looks of things. Will gay marriage become the law of the land within a year or two? I’m hesitant to say, although a look at the timeline suggests incredible momentum.
How much has changed, and how quickly. And for many of us, how wondrous that is.
(Clay Wirestone can be reached at 369-3305, cwirestone@cmonitor or on Twitter @ClayWires.)