Despite bans, gay rights support strong

New state and national support will shape the future of the issue.

Last week, Wisconsinites voted to pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages and civil unions. The amendment also bans civil unions between unmarried straight couples. Although gay marriage was already illegal in the state, this new vote is symbolic of a nationwide trend to take a stand on the issue.

This election season, eight states had similar constitutional amendments on their ballots. Of these eight, seven states voted to pass the amendments in hopes of preventing a judge’s rule from legalizing same-sex marriages.

In 2003, a Massachusetts supreme court ruled that same-sex marriages would be legal in the state, and since, 8,100 couples have married there. Unlike the several states that put gay marriage amendments on the ballot for voters, Massachusetts has not. Since this year’s elections, the Massachusetts legislature rejected an amendment to invalidate the 8,100 marriages.

However, supporters of gay rights are gaining some speed across the nation. The state of Arizona voted against the proposed same-sex marriage ban amendment on their ballot this election and became the first state to do so. A strong majority of state legislatures are now under Democratic control. The newly elected governor of New York, Democrat Eliot Spitzer, promises to endorse a marriage bill. And the newly named national House speaker, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, is a gay-rights supporter as well.

Although it is unlikely that Pelosi and other gay-rights supporters will effect much concrete change in legislation regarding descrimination, it is promising that new ideas will be expressed regarding the issue that will hopefully foster a more bipartisan approach toward it.

Two states, Vermont and Connecticut, recognize civil unions between same-sex partners that give them the same benefits of straight couples. A New Jersey court ruled to allow either marriages or civil unions in the state.

So what does the future of this issue look like? Hopefully, with fresh perspectives in state and national legislatures, it will be debated under new light. Putting the decision in the hands of citizens is the right idea, but our nation needs to progress towards accepting the rights of same-sex couples. Minnesota has not yet put the issue on a ballot.