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Friday, April 1, 2011

The 10 Year Anniversary of Marriage Equality -- Today!

Ten years ago today, Helene Faasen and Anne-Marie Thus, Ton Jansen and Louis Rogmans, Peter Wittebrood-Lemke and Frank Wittebrood, and Dolf Pasker and Gert Kastell were the first four same-sex couples in the modern world to be joined in legally-sanctioned matrimony. The marriages took place at midnight on April 1st, 2001, in Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

Helene Faasen and Anne-Marie Thus


Ton Jansen and Louis Rogmans


Faasen & Thus, Jansen & Rogmans, Wittebrood-Lemke & Wittebrood, Pasker & Kastell (left)
Amsterdam's mayor wed four gay couples at the stroke of midnight Saturday, immediately after the legislation enacted last year went into effect. The couples - three male and one female - nervously held hands and exchanged vows to fulfill the duties of matrimony set out in Dutch law.

Supporters predicted it would lead to similar legislation in other countries.

Sometimes the prognosticators get it right. In ten years, ten countries have legalized same-sex marriages:

  • Netherlands: 2001
  • Belgium: 2003
  • Spain: 2005
  • Canada: 2005
  • South Africa: 2006
  • Norway: 2009
  • Sweden: 2009
  • Portugal: 2010
  • Iceland: 2010
  • Argentina: 2010

Same-sex marriage is also legal in the state-level jurisdictions of

  • Massachusetts: 2004
  • Connecticut: 2008
  • Iowa: 2009
  • Coquille Indian Tribe: 2009
  • Vermont: 2009
  • New Hampshire: 2010
  • Washington DC: 2010
  • Mexico City: 2010

There are also approximately 18,000 legally married same-sex couples in the state of California, but it is not currently legal to marry a person of the same-sex there.

As the number of countries legalizing same-sex marriage has gone from none to ten in a span of ten years, support for marriage equality has risen dramatically in the United States:


Pew Polling 1996-2010 General Social Survey 1988-2010

As measured by Pew, in 2001 there were only 35% supportive and 57% opposed, while now there are 45% supportive and 46% opposed, a change of 21% in 10 years.

As measured by the General Social Survey, in 2004 59% were opposed and only 30% in favor, but in 2010 only 40% were opposed and 46% in favor, a dramatic reversal of 35% in just 7 years.

What does the future hold? Doris Day should be cited as the expert here. But there are a few things one can say with confidence:

  • Support for same-sex marriage will continue to rise in most parts of the world as an older generation less supportive of marriage equality is replaced by a younger generation that is far more supportive, while social norms presented on television and in movies push more acceptance of gay couples and same-sex marriages. When Lady Gaga's Born This Way video can command more than 28 million views, you know things are changing in support of tolerance.
  • The Religious Right will continue to fight same-sex marriage, and will continue to have successes out of proportion to their numbers, as was demonstrated only a few weeks ago in Maryland.

Look at some recent polling to see the out-of-proportion effect the Religious Right exerts:

  • Australia: Neilson: 57% - 37% in favor of same-sex marriage, yet the ruling left-wing party won't even consider a legalization bill in Parliament.
  • Ireland: Sunday Times, 73% - 22% in favor, and Irish Independent, 61% - 27% in favor, yet same-sex marriage is not legal.
  • Rhode Island: PPP 50% - 41%, Greenberg Quinlan 59% - 31%, yet it is doubtful that marriage equality can be passed through the Legislature.
  • New York: Quinnipaic 56% - 37%, Sienna, 57% - 38%, but the votes do not yet exist in the state's Senate for passage.

Looking forward, there are no legislative actions that I am aware of currently underway in other countries to legalize same-sex marriages, although the possibility of such actions has been mentioned in various locations: Ireland, Scotland, the United Kingdom, Finland, Luxembourg, Nepal, Australia, Brazil and Uruguay are some that come to mind.

The only US state legislature currently considering legalizing same-sex marriage is Rhode Island. The only ballot initiative that has an active campaign attached to it is in Oregon, by Basic Rights Oregon for 2012, Potentialities exist for ones in California and Washington State, but they are by no means certainties.

Nothing will come easy. It took a supermajority of Americans in support of repeal of Don't Ask, Dont' Tell to get a half-assed bill through Congress. A supermajority in support of ENDA has not been enough for that effort yet. Significant majorities in support of marriage equality are not enough to have State Legislatures take heed, or to repeal DOMA at the Federal level. The next ten years will likely be as heart-rendering and struggle-filled as these last ten, but there is no indication that trends will reverse themselves.

It would take a book to recount the entire history of marriage equality efforts just in the United States, but even this short narrative would be remiss without mentioning

Jack Baker of Baker v Nelson

Jack Baker & James McConnell, the first American gay couple to seek a marriage license -- in 1971, 40 years ago! Their quest was rejected by the Minnesota Supreme Court and their appeal for a hearing was denied by the United States Supreme Court.

Finally, a toast to all those same-sex couples who have married in these 10 years, and a song that may one day come true for many, many more.


1 comment:

  1. Thanks jpm, MAss 7 yr anniversary is coming up too!