By Rep. Michael Honda (D-Calif.) - 12/13/12 11:22 PM EST
This month, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would hear Hollingsworth v. Perry, the case brought by the legal team of Ted Olson and David Boies, which challenges the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8. Passed in 2008, this ballot initiative enshrined discrimination in the state’s constitution and only recognizes marriages between one man and one woman.
In addition to Perry, the court has also agreed to hear a challenge to Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). United States v. Windsor could potentially strike down the “straight-people-only” federal definition of marriage, and fully recognize married couples of all sexual orientations in the eyes of the law. In just a few short months’ time, those nine justices could deliver one of the most consequential verdicts we’ve seen in ages.
Regardless of the court’s decision, the quickly changing dynamics of public opinion on the matter will dictate the marriage equality movement’s future. In this regard, we’re experiencing watershed moments that give us great reason for optimism. In California, where Proposition 8 passed just four years ago, support for marriage equality now polls as high as 59 percent in the state. This year marked unprecedented success at the ballot box with pro-equality outcomes in Maryland, Maine, Minnesota and Washington. Better yet, even more states, including Rhode Island and Oregon, appear primed and ready to add themselves to the ranks of marriage equality states. Complete silence from the standard-bearers in the Republican Party following the Supreme Court’s announcement speaks volumes, and proves just how awkward the situation has come for a party touting freedom and federalism. Perhaps it’s only made it clearer now that nationwide polling now finds that support for marriage for gay couples consistently breaks the 50 percent barrier.
LGBTQ Americans are out of the closet and breaking through barriers now more than ever. They’re our favorite characters on television, our most revered lawmakers in Washington and our brave friends and family members who live openly and honestly every single day, serving our country in the military, as parents, as policymakers and in myriad other ways. Their visibility has made all the difference and changed the hearts and minds of so many Americans. My message to allies around the country is this: It’s time to get to work.
The next few years will be among the most critical for marriage equality, regardless of the Supreme Court’s decisions, and we cannot be a movement that wallows in successes or failures and rests on our laurels. Fruitful, dynamic conversations about this issue are happening in communities and states across the country, and we have unique perspectives to share. By sharing our sagas, remembering the pain of Proposition 8 and DOMA, and relaying our journeys to acceptance, we can change public opinion. Sharing these deeply personal stories will contribute to finally relegating this chapter of American history to the past, where it belongs.
Honda is vice chairman of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus.