Richard John “Jack” Baker and James Michael McConnell applying for a marriage license in Minneapolis.
Source: minnesota.publicradio.org, Oct. 25, 2012
The Progress of Gay Marriage
Last week, a gay couple I am friends with announced to me that they were getting married in Massachusetts by the end of this year. As one of the few close heterosexual female friends they claim to have, I was honored when they decided to share their good news with me because their joy was contagious. Later that evening, I began to think about a story I read years ago involving two gay men who attempted to do the same thing 43 years ago.
On May 18, 1970, Richard J. Baker and James M. McConnell, University of Minnesota students, attempted to obtain a marriage license and were denied on the basis of their respective genders. Eventually, both gentlemen sued and took their case before the Minnesota Supreme Court which stated “the institution of marriage as a union of man and woman uniquely involving the procreating and rearing of children within the family is as old as the book of Genesis.”
However, no one can deny that times have absolutely changed. Recent polls show that as much as 55 percent of the American public supports gay marriage/civil unions. In the 1980’s, polls reflected support in the 20 percentile range. The 1990’s saw the inclusion of same-sex partner benefits at the corporate level beginning with Levi Strauss & Co.; other Fortune-500 companies were soon to follow.
To further this point, on June 26, 2013, the United State Supreme Court struck down key components in the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which was originally designed to defend heterosexual marriage. The ruling of the Court noted “that same-sex couples who are legally married deserve equal rights to the benefits under federal law that go to all other married couples.”
On September 27, 2013, New Jersey became the 14th American state to allow same-sex unions leading many to believe that the United States appears to be somewhat closer to national recognition of gay marriage as a whole.
While there has been a tremendous amount of progress since Baker-McConnell v. Nelson in the 1970’s and much of which is too numerous to name here, society as a whole and the laws in which we live by still needs work. There is no denying that discrimination against gays remains extremely prevalent. However, what we do to resolve or at least address the accompanying problems relative to gender discrepancies determine who we truly are as a society and how to develop laws which protect the rights of all citizens regardless of skin color, gender, or sexuality is what should be most important. Therefore, until we do, it is up to each of us to fight for equal justice for all because if we do not, we will only have ourselves to blame when we feel the system has failed us.
For further information on the progress of the LGBT community, please see ProCon