The Court may go this way or that, but finally, the country seems to be on the right path.
As many of you may have noticed this week, Facebook was flooded by a wave of digitized Rothkoesque profile pictures in support of marriage equality as two pivotal cases make their way through the Supreme Court, challenging the governments’ ban (California – Prop 8) and non-recognition (federal – DOMA) of same sex marriages.
The hater inside of me initially thought about the silliness of reducing a civil rights issue to a social media profile image. What difference would it make? I doubt I was alone in dismissing the value of the trend. In spite of my own cynicism, I changed my profile and was hit with a feeling I had not felt since November 2008 – another instance in which I scoffed at (yet publicly supported) a national campaign that was unforeseeable just a few years earlier.
Nearly five years later, those hopes attached to Obama have not have not crashed and burned because they were always tempered by that healthy dose of skepticism – they were never soaring hopes to begin with. With marriage equality though, it’s different – I wholeheartedly believe that things are changing for the better. When folks ask me if I could press a button and change one thing – pass one law – change one procedure – the answer almost always leads back to our handling of marriage equality.
Denying gays and lesbians the right to marry is the single most stupid law we have in place that has an easy solution. Climate change is scary but fighting it will be complicated and will involve all types of negotiations and sacrifice throughout the world. Gun violence is the result of not just laws but also a culture of violence that pervades our society. Tax reform, unemployment, debt reduction, infrastructure investment, education reform and trade imbalance are all important matters with no clear solutions. Marriage equality is different – the answer has become glaringly obvious and the only thing left now is to decide how to bring about this long overdue provision of justice.
Changing a digital profile is a mundane activity – but only if viewed as an isolated incident from the whole. There are countless such activities in which I do not participate – petitions against Israeli occupation, increased funding for cancer research, thumbs up for charter schools. Perhaps my inner cynic gets the better of me on these issues – that and an admission that I don’t know enough about the situation to really have a strong position. Marriage equality is different – you don’t need to be an expert to know that denying two loving people the right to marry is bigotry.
It only lasted for a few minutes, but the sea of red made me feel good. What more can you ask for from a national campaign? Let me repeat that – it made me feel good. Seems simple enough but this is a remarkably profound statement. I’m sure many people signed up to oppose Kony in 2012 only to be confused and frustrated by the nuances of the change they were preaching. People may or may not have felt good with Live Aid and Live 8 and all types of other charity concerts, but they don’t compare in any way whatsoever to what’s going on now.
Perhaps the sudden surge in public support for marriage equality is more a reflection of change than an agent of change. I am cautiously optimistic that the Supreme Court will rule against DOMA and Prop 8, but even if they don’t, I am flagrantly and assuredly certain that we’ll solve this problem in the coming decade. Years from now, I’ll reflect fondly back on times when we as a country had a clear problem and a clear solution. While I won’t wish for new such problems to emerge, I shall lament that we’ve made so many of our other problems so hard to fix.
I should add that the easy solution I talk of was not always easy. It has become easy as a result of the tireless work of countless people over the past several decades. Also, marriage is just one way in which the gay and lesbian community is discriminated against – the biggest legal battle may be coming to an end, but a protracted conflict of discrimination will almost certainly continue.