Outlining a Progressive Future

Vermont Legalises Gay Marriage and Sets a Great Precedent

Yesterday, the House of Representatives and the Senate in the American state of Vermont voted to legalise gay marriage within the state. After the vote was passed, the legislation was vetoed by the Republican Governed, which was swiftly overridden by the state House of Senate chambers (both requiring a 2/3 vote to do so). After the veto was overridden the President pro-tem of the Vermont Senate said: 

“The struggle for equal rights is never easy. I was proud to be president of the Senate nine years ago when Vermont created civil unions. Today we have overridden the governor’s veto. I have never felt more proud of Vermont as we become the first state in the country to enact marriage equality, not as the result of a court order, but because it is the right thing to do.” 

This makes Vermont the 4th state in the United States to legalise gay marriage (taking out California, which has recently repealed its legalisation), after Connecticut, Massachusetts and Iowa (which only legalised the act last Friday in a court ruling).

This action in Vermont however, is somewhat more important that those is the other three states as it now becomes the first state in the country to legalise gay marriage through legislative procedures rather than through court actions. This provides a great boost for the gay rights movement in the United States as it shows that winning the right to marry doesn’t just have to come through court actions, which I believe can somewhat hurt the gay rights movement, but can also come through legislative procedures. It is now predicted that in the coming months New Hampshire will pass gay rights legislation (the legislation has already passed the House and is now waiting for Senate approval) and legislation is now on the table in Maine and New Jersey. It is expected that these three states will pass the legislation, ensuring that almost all of the New England area as well as one large state (by population) would have legalised gay marriage. This will provide a great push on the rest of the states in the United States, especially more left leaning (i.e. New York, California, Washington), to start legalising gay marriage.

The Next Hurdle

After proving that they can jump over two large hurdles (the courts and a legislature), the gay rights movement in the United States now has one last hurdle to overcome to prove they can achieve full equality; a popular vote. So far the gay rights movement has only been able to achieve one success when the issue of gay marriage has appeared at a popular ballot (in Arizona 2006, which was then defeated in 2008). With so many popular votes having occurred in the states it is now essential that the movement begins to pro-actively fight the issue at the ballot box. In my mind it is inevitable that the next fight will occur again in the state of California. The issue in California is pretty complex. Proposition 8, passed in 2008, made gay marriage illegal in the state. There is now a court challenge on the proposition, stating that a change of constitution is required for this proposition to be legal. This leaves the gay rights movement with two foreseeable futures:

  1. The court throws out the case forcing the movement to head back to the ballot box.
  2. The court throws out the proposition, forcing the anti rights movement to the ballot box in an effort to change the constitution.

In either case it is likely that the people of California will be voting on the issue again either in 2010 or in 2012. I believe this is a good thing as I believe with strong campaigning the gay rights movement can win California back and in turn prove to the world and to themselves that they can win a majority of the population when it comes to gay marriage rights. This for me will lead to a rapid shift in the United States where more and more states allow gay marriage, in turn forcing other states to do the same.

What Does this Mean for the Rest of the World?

An interesting and final question about all of this is what does this mean for the rest of the world, especially those states that still don’t have legal gay marriage? Let’s look at Australia as an example (noting that legislation introduced by the Greens in 2008 to make gay marriage legal was voted down 71-5 in the Senate). I think having a United States that is rapidly legalising gay marriage will have two effects:

  1.  It will make the United States look more progressive than Australia (and other states), a position many in Australia to not want to see the country be in.
  2. It will give a boost to the gay rights movement in Australia who see that if this can occur in the United States it can occur there.

I think these two things will be important in the future. Whilst, I don’t believe that the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd really cares if Australia is seen as conservative (as he is a conservative), I think many within his party and within the country do. This, for me will create a greater push to see gay marriage legalised.

Second, I believe that the gay rights movement in Australia has been floundering in recent times with very little strength. I think seeing how effective and strong the movement is now in the United States will give a good booster to the Australian movement, who can now see that achieving universal gay marriage rights is even more possible.

Given the conservative nature of our federal parliament however, it will be interesting to watch how the gay rights movement will aim to achieve this goal. It is clear that gay marriage is not on the table of the Labor Party at the moment and I therefore think that the movement needs to start by creating an actual discussion in the nation about why it should be on the table. This for me could occur through two methods:

  1. Adding to a national pressure campaign, enlisting such organisations as GetUp
  2. Making it an election issue, especially in high density ‘gay seats’, such as Wentworth, Sydney, Grayndler, Melbourne, Fremantle and Melbourne Ports (apart from Wentworth these are all seats where the Greens are getting closer to challenging the incumbent Labor politicians, both at a federal and state level).

Due to the length of this blog I will leave going into these two strategies for another time, but for the moment would like to hear what people think about how the movement can grow in Australia and other states!



April 8, 2009 - Posted by | Human Rights, Monitering the Left, Options for a Progressive Future

1 Comment »

  1. A quick note of clarification that I think I need to add to this blog. I would like to change one sentence in the blog; this should now read ‘Second, I believe that the gay rights movement in Australia has been floundering, in regards to gay marriage, in recent times with very little strength.’ I do so ackowledging that the gay rights movement does a lot of work in regard to mental health, sexual health, consent, discrimination etc etc and I was not aiming this at that work.

    Comment by simon2013 | April 10, 2009 | Reply

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