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Momentum grows for gay marriage across America

As of this past Sunday, only 19 states and the District of Columbia allowed same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses. By Tuesday, that statistic became 32 states. Cal State University Long Beach is a part of the continuing progress toward equality and tolerance for the Lesbian Gay Transgender community.

The fact that CSULB has its own LGBT resource center that holds events on campus that celebrate National Coming Out Week demonstrates tangible progress that could not have been imagined among the 49er community when the university was established 65 years ago.

The process to explain this victory for those in the marriage equality movement is a bit complex, but essentially it breaks down as follows.

The federal government does not issue marriage licenses; rather, the power to grant marriage licenses is reserved for the states. On May 17, 2004, Massachusetts became the first state in the country to legalize same sex marriage after the state’s supreme court ruled that the state constitution “forbids the creation of second-class citizens.” This sparked a domino effect over the next decade whereby LGBT activists focused the fight for marriage equality on the state level, be it through legislative measures as in Connecticut, by popular vote as was the case in Washington or through state supreme court rulings as was used in New Mexico.

While some of these states declined to appeal the rulings above the state supreme court level, others were appealed and sent to the federal appellate courts.

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decided on Monday not to hear the appeals of five court rulings that ruled in favor of same sex marriage, effectively letting the rulings of those court cases stand.  Virginia, Oklahoma, Utah, Wisconsin and Indiana had prohibited gay marriage, but lawyers arguing for gay rights prevailed; thus, the decisions in these five states ruling in favor of gay rights will remain intact.

As a result of this denial to hear the cases, the number of states permitting gay marriage has jumped from 19 to 24; additionally, six other states, which fall under the jurisdiction of the federal appellate courts that set this precedent, are bound by the same decisions. This means that marriage equality is now the law of the land for 11 new states, and marriage licenses were issued almost immediately to same-sex couples. For the first time ever, a majority of Americans now live in jurisdictions where marrying someone of the same-sex is legal.

And by Tuesday, gay marriage became legal in two more states after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down same-sex marriage bans in Nevada and Idaho; considering the events on Monday, if that case is brought up to the Supreme Court, then SCOTUS will deny the writ of certiorari and refuse to take the case.

Overall, the fight for LGBT rights as a whole has been a slow, but increasingly successful process over the past five decades. It was not uncommon in the 1950s for homosexuals to be arrested and thrown in jail for lewd conduct simply for the act of flirting with someone of the same-sex. This all changed in 1969 with Stonewall Riots, which launched the LGBT movement into the political realm, and successfully began challenging laws within states that criminalized homosexuals and homosexual acts.

By the 1990s people were coming out of the closet en masse, with American society becoming more tolerant. Even as homophobia remained strong within the country, as was horrifically demonstrated with the hate-fueled murder of gay teenager Mathew Shepard in 1998, the LGBT movement continued to lobby for legislation to secure rights for LGBT persons.

The movement’s greatest success however has been helping to change the public opinion of same-sex marriage. It is hard to imagine, but a 1996 Gallup poll showed only 26 percent of American approved of same-sex marriage. In 2011, that opinion grew to 53 percent and it continues to rise.

LGBT Americans should celebrate. Their progress and determination to fight for equality and acceptance has been driven by passion and resilience despite countless brutal hurdles. We are only 20 states away from ensuring the freedom to marry someone you love regardless of gender and sexual orientation nationwide. Let’s get to work.

 

Jacob Yungman is a junior majoring in political science.

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