Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sunshine in the Morning, One of These Days

How does that old song go? “There’ll be sunshine in the morning… Sunshine in the morning one of these days.” I thought I caught a glimmer of light yesterday when I read two news stories, one about polls on same-sex marriage in the most populace state, and the other about recognizing same-sex unions from elsewhere in the third most populace state.

The Field Poll taken two days after the California Supreme Court struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage
found 51 percent of California’s registered voters favor the idea of allowing gay and lesbian couples to wed, while 42 percent disapprove.
"I would characterize it as a historic poll," said Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo, noting that a marked number of young voters - more than two of every three - supported permitting same-sex nuptials. DiCamillo called the result one of the rare issues "where public tolerance I would say is generationally induced."
Same-sex marriages are expected to begin this summer unless the court decides to reconsider its decision or postpone its taking effect until after the November election when California voters are expected to vote on a proposed amendment to the state constitution defining marriage as between a man and woman. On this proposed amendment the poll results were almost identical:
Fifty-one percent opposed that proposal, the survey reported, while 43 percent approved of the restrictive amendment.
Devilstower from DailyKos put the “51 percent” in historical perspective:
51% approval may be a very slim margin, but it represents a sharp change in this issue over the last two decades. When the question was asked in 1995, it drew 30% support. In 1997, the number was up to 38%. Now it's 51%.
I find two other factors heartening in this poll.
The changing attitude reflected through Field Polls, DiCamillo said, can be attributed to a "generational replacement" that has resulted in younger Californians being more sympathetic to providing equal protection of the laws to gays and lesbians. The shift, he added, is akin to the public's attitudes on race that changed after the civil rights movement.
First, young people are leading the way: "generational replacement." Three cheers for our young people! Second, the shift is similar to the way attitudes on race changed. In 1948 California’s was the first state high court to
declare unconstitutional a ban on interracial marriage. It was another 19 years before the U.S. Supreme Court would make the same decision; but in 1967 all state laws banning interracial marriage were rendered null and void.

Yesterday’s news on same-sex unions from
New York was also encouraging.
Governor David A. Paterson has directed all state agencies to begin to revise their policies and regulations to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions, like Massachusetts, California and Canada…

The revisions are most likely to involve as many as 1,300 statutes and regulations in New York governing everything from joint filing of income tax returns to transferring fishing licenses between spouses.
Same-sex couples in New York now have the option of going to California or Canada to marry and returning to take advantage of protections under New York law. The New York Governor’s action was one more step in righting an injustice, but there are other steps yet to take.
While gay rights advocates widely praised the spirit of Mr. Paterson’s policy, some saw more than a little irony in the fact that New York has yet to allow gays to marry.

“If you’re going to treat us as equals, why don’t you just give us the marriage license?” said Alan Van Capelle, executive director of Empire State Pride Agenda. “So this is a temporary but necessary fix for a longer-term problem, which is marriage equality in New York State.”
There is a hard fight ahead on the proposed amendment in California and on the struggles that remain in most of the other states, but yesterday we saw two more glimmers of sun peeking through homophobic clouds. Today we can sing with enthusiasm, “There’ll be sunshine in the morning…Sunshine in the morning, one of these days.” Thank goodness for the young people who have a hard time imagining what all the fuss about same-sex marriage is about. It’s time for some “old dogs” to learn some “new tricks” from our young people.

- Milo

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