On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case for marriage equality for all Americans. The historical decision, likely to come in June, will determine whether the nation will remain a patchwork of equality and discrimination, or make equal treatment the law of the land. I’m hoping and betting for the latter.
Our progress has developed faster than I could have ever imagined. A decade ago, I was a senior in high school fighting with a homophobic school administration. The 2003 case Lawrence v. Texas, had just struck down the remaining sodomy laws in the U.S. and the following year, Massachusetts had become the first state to legalize same-sex marriage. The idea of basic anti-discrimination laws, let alone nationwide marriage equality, seemed part of a distant future, one that may never be actualized.
We’ve come so far, so fast since that time. Leading up to 2005, EqualityMaine and GLAD worked together to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This change was codified in Maine law later that year and I am grateful to have been a part of that effort. I could not have imagined that only 7 years later, Maine would make history as the first state to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote.
We are set to make history on the national stage yet again as Maine lawyer Mary Bonauto prepares to represent the plaintiffs in Obergefell v. Hodges. As Maine goes, so goes the nation. I had the privilege of meeting and briefly working with Mary in 2005 and I cannot think of a more capable attorney to represent this case. She has consistently fought for equality and won.
“She’s the mastermind,” said Portland attorney Pat Peard, who has worked on gay rights cases with Bonauto going back to the 1980s. “I mean, Mary Bonauto is going to be in every legal textbook talking about civil rights in the United States. There’s not a doubt in my mind.”
Despite the excitement and (unnecessary) controversy surrounding equal rights, I believe that once the dust settles, marriage equality will be a non-issue and part of every day life. Ultimately, the goal is normalization; same-sex couples want the same recognition and legal respect given to opposite-sex couples. Recent attempts to legalize discrimination under the guise of “religious freedom,” notably in Indiana and Arkansas, and most recently here in Maine, have all been quickly extinguished. A majority of Americans support equal rights, including same-sex marriage, and the courts and corporate America have joined that sentiment, making it clear that Obergefell v. Hodges will not become a modern-day Roe v. Wade.
Those who oppose LGBT equality are rapidly becoming irrelevant. The discriminatory attitude of conservatives, not to mention the explicit opposition to marriage equality embodied in the Republican Party platform, will pose significant challenges to those who would seek office in 2016. As LGBT Americans join their peers in equal treatment under law, so too are conservatives further marginalizing themselves to a past characterized by prejudice. We must move forward and leave that past behind. This Tuesday will be a watershed in that continuing progress toward realizing the American dream.