by Margarita Diaz, Communications Director
The opinions expressed in this piece are solely the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the BU College Democrats at large.
On February 12th, the lower house of the French National Assembly, with backing from President Francois Hollande, passed Marriage for All, a bill that would not only legalize gay marriage, but also allow same sex couples to adopt children. Just six days earlier, on February 5th, Great Britain’s House of Commons, led by Prime Minister David Cameron’s Coalition government, voted 400 to 175 in favor of similar marriage equality legislation. While both bills must still endure committee hearings and long debates in their respective upper houses, they are likely to become law.
This, without a doubt, is progress.
At the time of writing, eleven countries – Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa and Sweden – allow same-sex couples to marry. With France and Britain on the cusp of passing equal marriage legislation, isn’t it only a matter of time before all of the United States follows suit?
I have heard repeatedly from people of differing political affiliations that the legalization of gay marriage in the United States on the Federal level is inevitable; that it’s the direction our country is heading in, and that somewhere in the not-so-distant future those who vehemently oppose it will be relegated to the fringes of public opinion.
But when you pick things apart, that kind of mentality is pure complacency.
In a commentary on the passage of the UK’s marriage equality bill, The Independent’s Owen Jones remarked, “It was huge sacrifice that got us here. Never forget it.” While the French and British governments have moved in a progressive direction, neither achievement was without volumes of contention and backlash, ranging from the conservative Members of the British Parliament who gave grandiose speeches likening gay marriage to incest, to the 800,000 person protests for traditional marriage outside the National Assembly in Paris. In the case of France, the Marriage for All bill passed by virtue of the Left’s majority in the Assembly, carried by a slim margin of 100 votes, out of more than 530.
So what now for the United States? In a country with divided political opinion, where LGBT rights have been granted at a slower, more segmented pace, more extreme voices of opposition reap the benefits of a political system that hands them a large megaphone.
But against all odds, the tide is slowly but surely turing. A recent Gallup poll shows that US public opinion on marriage equality is swaying, with about 53% of all Americans currently in support of same-sex couples’ right to marry. Meanwhile, the Pentagon’s extension of benefits to same-sex partners of military personnel, as well as President Obama’s historic endorsement of marriage equality in May of last year, proves that America has achieved progress that would have been unthinkable as recently as decade ago.
Indeed, the United States has made significant strides toward marriage equality, but we still face a long haul. Proposition 8 still awaits hearing before the United States Supreme Court. Members of the Westboro Baptist Church continue to march under the slogan “God Hates Fags.” And, while the victories in the United Kingdom and France are cause for optimism, I remain convinced that we will never achieve marriage equality without hard work, strong voices, and consistent advocacy. President Obama himself said that marriage equality can only be achieved “step by step, law by law, mind by changing mind.”
We’ve got to keep going.
Photo credit: Getty Images/Justin Sullivan