Last week, the UK House of Commons voted overwhelmingly, 400 to 175, to legalize same-sex marriage. While the House of Lords has yet to vote, this bill is expected to become law by this summer.
Conservative Party Prime Minister David Cameron backed the bill, and though there were nine more votes against the measure than for it among the 303 Conservative Party MPs who voted, this showing is remarkable for a right-wing party, compared to the Republican Party here in the U.S. It looks like gay marriage in Britain is imminent, and it will not be long until the United States follows suit in legalizing same-sex marriage.
It is remarkable what dynamic political and social change a few years can bring. In just the past few years a sitting president endorsed same-sex marriage for the first time, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has been repealed, and the Defense of Marriage Act has no longer been upheld by the Justice Department.
Additionally, this past November Maryland, Maine and Washington became the first states to legalize same-sex marriage by popular referendum, bringing the total number of states to nine. Also, a Supreme Court decision determining the constitutionality of banning same-sex marriage will be reached by June.
Socially, acceptance of same-sex marriage has also shifted dramatically: according to a December Gallup poll, 53 percent of Americans now support it – up from 40 percent in 2008. And this change will continue seeing as 73 percent of Americans ages 18-29 are in favor.
Such broad, swift progress has prompted many to believe that the gay rights movement is nearly complete, but the simple reality is that it is far from over.
Major hurdles remain, like ending the explicit ban on marriage between same-sex couples in 30 states as well as allowing same-sex couples to adopt and have all the same benefits of married heterosexual couples.
But the tide is inevitably shifting this way.
As President Obama said during the inauguration speech last month: “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”
Regardless of whether or not one agrees with allowing same-sex marriage, those who believe that this country will continue to deny others such a crucial right are fooling themselves and will find themselves in what is likely a familiar place – on the wrong side of history.
Likewise, there is nothing that conservative politicians, advocacy groups and lobbyists, archaic churches, protests or Fox News pundits can do to reverse America from gradually living up to its value of equality for all. The tipping point has been reached, and it will not be long until people like Mike Huckabee or Rick Santorum will be viewed as Strom Thurmond or George Wallace were in the 1950s and 1960s: bigoted villains impeding a consensus of progress.
The true obstacle that is slowing down this movement for equality is not legislation or court decisions, but rather public opinion. As mentioned earlier, support for same-sex marriage is at an all-time high, but there is still a sizeable minority that opposes it. It will not be long, however, until people will not oppose same-sex marriage based upon a misguided sense of morality, but will affirm it in the name of equality.
The movement for racial equality was not finished with the unanimous decision of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 or when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were passed to end segregation and voter intimidation.
And even with the first Black president, there is still racial inequality. But racism does not have the same role in society that it did before the Civil Rights movement because of a paradigm shift in which law-making bolstered support for greater racial equality.
In short, the struggle to achieve equality will be passed neither by the ballot nor decided in a legislature or courtroom; rather, it will be won by public support. The passage of laws aimed at providing equality is simply the first step toward achieving it.
What is certain is that, in time, these milestones will be reached, and given the speed of recent progress, it will be soon.
Ross Fogg is a College junior from Fayetteville, Ga.