While the Supreme Court decides whether or not the Defense of Marriage Act is constitutional, marriage equality is making swift progress around the world. As of now, same-sex marriage is legal in 14 countries: Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Uruguay. In addition, same-sex marriages are recognized conditionally in Israel, Brazil, Mexico City and parts of the Caribbean.
Today, the National Assembly of France made a final decision on its highly publicized gay marriage bill, even as antagonists stepped up efforts to delay the vote. Polls show that roughly 60 percent of French citizens support marriage equality; still, opponents protested vehemently throughout the parliamentary proceedings. Despite fierce opposition, the majority of the French parliament voted in favor of the bill. Same-sex marriage has become legal in France.
Last Wednesday, New Zealand’s legislative body voted strongly in favor of a same-sex marriage bill. Two days later, the measure received official approval from the Governor-General. The new law will take effect in August, allowing gay couples to marry legally in New Zealand.
Not to be outdone, key players in Australia’s government are now putting pressure on Prime Minister Julia Gillard to allow a vote on same-sex marriage in Australia before the federal election in September.
Earlier this month, Ireland took a significant step toward marriage equality when its Constitutional Convention voted 79 percent in favor of granting marriage rights to same-sex couples. A referendum will likely come next. While there is no statute, the Constitutional Convention vote can only speed up the process of legalizing gay marriage in Ireland.
Even countries that have not stood historically on the forefront of human rights or LGBT issues – and don’t conjure up images of liberal, progressive societies – are making some headway on marriage equality, including Colombia, Nepal and Vietnam.
Meanwhile, here in the United States, the progress toward marriage equality has been a frustrating farrago of hard-won victories and incomprehensible defeats.
Although gay and lesbian couples can marry in nine of 50 U.S. states, as well as the District of Columbia and two Native American tribal jurisdictions, same-sex marriages are still not federally recognized. Poll after poll shows a majority of the American people supporting legal recognition of same-sex marriage. Most state legislatures, however, have crafted constitutional amendments denying marriage rights to gay couples or restricting the definition of marriage to one man and one woman. What does it all mean? It means that all LGBT Americans subsist in a state of injustice and inequality, no matter where we live.
If the Supreme Court upholds DOMA as constitutional, our nation’s de facto endorsement of inequality for LGBT people won’t change.
Elsewhere in the world, the lives of LGBT people are changing for the better, and we ought to be changing with them; there’s no rational excuse for America to drag its feet on progress. Maintaining the status quo while we lag behind Uruguay? It’s unacceptable.
The Supreme Court’s rulings on both DOMA and Prop 8 are expected in June, just in time for this year’s Pride festivities. Hopefully, the decisive outcome of the two cases will rest unequivocally in our favor. Then we will celebrate two extraordinary triumphs in LGBT history, as our nation reclaims its place on the forefront of human rights.