Reflections on marriage equality advances
May 26, 2009
Last Wednesday, May 13, I participated in a panel discussion at the U.S. Capitol organized by the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus. I was one of five participants (pictured in the photo) who talked about current developments related to marriage equality. Mary Bonauto of GLAD, who has been called the Thurgood Marshall of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights movement, spoke about the recently filed Gill v. OPM lawsuit challenging section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies married same-sex couples access to the more than 1,100 rights and responsibilities given to married different-sex couples by federal law. Listening to Mary, who argued the landmark Goodridge case that won marriage rights in Massachusetts and was also co-counsel in the breakthrough Baker v. Statecase that directly led to civil unions in Vermont and opened the door to marriage, was like having a seat in the courtroom. To say that she eloquently made the case for same-sex couples who are married under state law but denied important rights and responsibilities under federal law is an understatement: she is a supremely gifted advocate for equality. Winnie Stachelberg of the Center for American Progress added unique perspective on how various battles have played out in recent years. Liz Seaton of the National Center for Lesbian Rights summed up the pending decision by the California Supreme Court on the legal challenge to Prop 8, which will, of course, be announced today. Rachel Laser of Third Way presented interesting polling data discussing how to bring the "movable middle" over to equality. I spoke about everything that has been going on in state legislatures this year with regard to marriage-from victories in Vermont and Maine to encouraging developments in New Hampshire, New York, and Washington, D.C. As the panelists observed, 2009 has been a whirlwind as doors are finally starting to open. Let's hope this continues, and that there are more positive developments to talk about in the days, weeks, and months ahead.