By Jasmine Xie
Nearly 18 years ago, the Defense of Marriage Act, otherwise known as “DOMA”, was enacted as a United States Federal law with a resounding majority of votes for banning gay marriage in both houses of Congress. Almost two decades later, a poll conducted by the NY Times finds that 50 senators openly stated their support for marriage equality as of April 4, 2013. Recently, New Jersey has joined the ranks of Connecticut, California, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Washington D.C. who have legalized gay marriage thus far; the New Jersey Supreme Court ruling scheduled for 2013. Today, we will examine not only the effects of this legislation, but also the politics behind this seemingly spontaneous explosion of liberalist ideas in our government and the people as a whole.
According to an April 4th 2013 article by Nate Silver for the NY Times, support for same sex marriage by certain legislators has surged primarily due to popular preference in voters. As the population evolves to reject traditional values, congressmen feel the inadvertent need to appease to their voters. Such practice denotes that we are not looking at a shift in the opinions of our government, but rather a change in the vision of the general public. Going off the premise that this sudden swing of pro-marriage equality sentiments in our government is due to the overwhelming influence of the population as a whole, a study conducted by the New York Times showed how after President Obama voiced his support for same-sex marriage, support from both government officials and the general public increased as well. In terms of congressmen opinions, factors such as ideology index and estimated amount of voters for same-sex marriage in his or her state drastically impacted their decisions. Other less statistically significant factors included the age of the congressman (as a subtle trend in which those who were born later tended to support marriage equality more than those who were born earlier) and the party of the congressman (seeing that the ideology index had already been taken into consideration and any party-related data would merely serve as an additional predictive measure). In the end, however, support for gay marriage has undoubtedly gained momentum. While just ten years ago, only around three percent of senators endorsed same-sex marriage, today, around half of our representatives recognize same-sex weddings as legitimate, projecting a steady exponential increase for the years to come.
The government is not the only one voicing their support for marriage-equality, however, as mass media has taken this controversy by storm. Earlier this year, the Human Rights Campaign launched a red and pink spin-off logo of their original blue and yellow equal sign as a message of support for two of the same-sex marriage cases that went to the Supreme Court. The response was overwhelming, as Facebook users by the millions changed their profile pictures. The Human Rights Campaign website crashed as a result of people going on their website to download the image, and celebrities such as George Takei, Ellen DeGeneres, Beyonce, and Padma Lakshmi joined the movement as well. Along with the Internet, the entertainment business has begun advocating for gay rights as well. In 2012, the song “Same Love” sung by rapper Macklemore and Mary Lambert, and produced by Ryan Lewis had a whopping 350,000 views just 24 hours after its release. The song was recorded during the Washington Referendum 74 and discusses gay and lesbian rights. The record has achieved international fame, claiming the number one Billboard spot in Australia and New Zealand. Its album cover depicts a simple yet stark photo of Macklemore’s uncle and his partner, serving as a powerful reminder of the pressing inequality that so many same-sex couples face on a day-to-day basis.
And yet, why should we care? Just in September, Governor Chris Christie had promised to bring the legalization of same-sex marriage in New Jersey to the Supreme Court. Only a year earlier, however, Christie had signed a veto on the legalization, thus prompting much uproar among fellow New Jersey residents. While the prospects back in September seemed promising, in October, this sudden swing in Christie’s view on gay marriage proved only temporary. Afraid that he might lose a majority of his Republican supporters, Christie futilely attempted to put the appeal on hold, and perhaps even drop the whole case altogether. As citizens of New Jersey and as a country supposedly built on the fundamental rights of equality for all, the intrinsic question remains: how will we go about fulfilling our legacy as “the land of the free”? Deny our fellow Americans of their rights to the sanctity of marriage, or finally step up to join the ranks of so many other states in ensuring justice once and for all? As recently elected Senator Cory Booker says: “Tonight, we have crossed a border. While you all have fallen into love, the truth is the state of New Jersey has risen to love.”
1.Ly, Jason Hanna. Laura, Chris Kokenes, Rob Frehse, and Bill Mears. “Same-sex Marriages Must Be Allowed in New Jersey, Judge Rules.” CNN. Cable News Network, 29 Sept. 2013. Web. 25 Nov. 2013.
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3.Silver, Nate. “Explaining the Senate’s Surge in Support for Same-Sex Marriage.”FiveThirtyEight Explaining the Senates Surge in Support for SameSex Marriage Comments. N.p., 4 Apr. 2013. Web. 25 Nov. 2013.
4.Wulfhorst, Ellen, and Daniel Trotta. “NJ Gov. Christie Drops Gay Marriage Case, Risking Some Republican Ire.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 21 Oct. 2013. Web. 25 Nov. 2013.