This has been quite a spring for marriage equality. The progress has been famously characterized as a gathering storm, but the Nashe quote I’m using for my title here puts a different metaphor in my mind: It’s fun to think of the spring as a giant Green Man romping about the country (after hopping over from Sweden) entraining verdancy, and among the tendrils and blossoms that leap up in his wake is the recognition that love and commitment between two men or two women are just as much to be celebrated and honored as when they arise between a man and a woman.
Sweden was the first place this spring to come to that recognition. On April Fool’s Day the Riksdag had a six-hour debate, and then voted nearly 12 to 1 to recognize marriage equality. It’s funny: They have 349 members in that body (not too very many fewer than the House of Representatives here in the U.S., although we’ve got an extra house in the national legislature), and with six hours of debate, they were able to pass marriage-equality legislation in a landslide. I doubt you could get anything through the House in six hours with a margin like that. (And, oh, Stockholm is a beautiful city. I have some wonderful memories of Ping-Pong in a house on a lake there.)
Then, on the 3rd, the Iowa Supreme Court released its opinion in Varnum v. Brien—as far as I’m concerned, the preeminent marriage-equality decision in the country. (It’s so good, I smile now at the sight of Bookman Old Style.) I got carried away writing up some of the ruling’s remarkable rhetoric, so I’m going to post that separately [Here it is.—Ed.], but the upshot is a unanimous, magnanimous recognition that queer folks are people, and not to be treated as anything less than full, equal citizens.
Four days later, the Green King visited the Green Mountain State and the district of his colleague Columbia. It was a short trip to D.C., just long enough for the city council to take its first vote (12–0) on recognizing same-sex marriages validly enacted elsewhere. (The final vote, this time with Marion Barry present and dissenting, was about a month later.) But Vermont—ooh, that was a story.
April 7 was the exciting conclusion of the process in Vermont; in the previous two weeks or so, Vermont’s Senate had passed a marriage-equality bill 26–4 and sent it to the state House of Representatives, which approved it 95–52. In between those two votes, though, Gov. Jim Douglas had announced that he would veto the law once it was passed—which he did. The very next day, both houses voted to override his veto (the House by the slimmest possible margin), and Vermont became the first state in the country to enact marriage-equality legislation.
Then there were a few weeks that felt a little strange. I and some of the bloggers that I read had been so bowled over by the expansion of marriage equality during the first week of April that we temporarily forgot the normal state of affairs, i.e., not gaining new jurisdictions at a rate of more than one a week. Perhaps King Spring was napping. It was a bit of a letdown, waiting for Maine to get the lead out. But it did, and almost exactly two weeks after a marriage-equality bill was introduced (with more than six times the number of cosponsors usually permitted), Gov. John Baldacci signed it within an hour of receiving it—making him the country’s first governor to sign a marriage-equality bill (a distinction, by the way, that my honored Gov. Hoover twice refused). Now if only the voters of Maine can see their way to rejecting the upcoming people’s veto…
Now comes the still-pending excitement. A marriage-equality bill pushed by Gov. David Paterson scored big in New York’s Assembly, but the tradition in the state Senate is apparently for “leaders” not to bring a bill to a vote unless they already know it will pass. Since there was some maneuvering at the start of this legislative term in New York involving promises not to vote on marriage equality in the Senate, there’s some question whether it will even come up before the session ends next month. Let’s hope the necessary political pressure can be brought to bear.
New Hampshire is working on marriage equality right now, too, in a gripping struggle that has required proponents to overcome possibly fatal resistance at every stage of the process: committees, full-chamber votes, and even the governor’s desk. Right now we’re waiting for a conference committee to iron out the terms of a companion bill that Gov. John Lynch has demanded as a condition for his not vetoing the original bill that finally made it through both houses. (Rep. Jim Splaine ‘splains it all in detail at Blue Hampshire, a great resource for following this whole drama, although that post is not recent enough to cover the Senate’s concurrence in the companion bill and the House’s rejection of that same bill.) The roller-coaster ride continues.
And then there’s California. My adopted home takes the national spotlight tomorrow, when we see whether the year’s pleasant king keeps dancing or he trips over the Sierra Nevada and falls into the sea. Cross fingers.