For those of us who broadly support gay rights and, specifically, support the right of same-sex marriage, the last few days have been tough. Watching news coverage of people lined up to essentially deny others the right to legal recognition of a loving relationship with the person of their choice hurt to the core. Given the impact it had on me, I can’t even begin to appreciate what it must have felt like for my gay and lesbian friends and family members.
As I read the news of a counter protest “kiss in” developing for Friday and saw the major hit Chick-Fil-A’s brand has taken, I began to realize this was just one setback in a fight that has momentum like never before. While there is much work to be done and while gays and lesbians still face great challenges, let me share with you a few things that give me great hope for the future.
In response to the remarks by Mr. Cathy of Chick-Fil-A, several other high-profile CEOs have affirmed their support of gay rights and gay marriage. As reported by the Washington Post and other media outlets, Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos and his wife donated $2.5 million to an organization fighting for gay marriage. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and founder Bill Gates each donated $100,000. Ken Powel, CEO of General Mills, has spoken out against a movement in Minnesota to ban gay marriage, and Paul Singer, CEO and founder of a financial services firm donated $150,000 in support of same-sex marriage.
In recent months, Starbucks reaffirmed their corporate position in support of same sex marriage (despite pressure from NOM) and Nike expressed their support of a law legalizing same-sex marriage. In recent years countless other firms have expressed support or donated to causes in support of same-sex marriage including both Coke and Pepsi, Apple, Best Buy, Boeing, GM, Google, and Home Depot to name just a few (e.g., http://goo.gl/... and more at http://goo.gl/...).
Digging a little deeper, it turns out 58 percent of Fortune 500 companies and 52 percent of all employers offer domestic partner health benefits. While there’s still a long way to go, these numbers have grown in recent years and are promising.
On the legal front, just this week the so called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) was ruled unconstitutional by a Connecticut judge and, in Minnesota, a judge ruled that a same-sex partner could inherit assets even though the state has its own DOMA law in place that bans same-sex unions. This follows many other cases that are most certainly heading towards the Supreme Court where I find it very unlikely even some of the conservative justices will rule against the granting of rights when the objection to granting them is based most generally on religious/moral grounds. If they can get behind the pain that is Citizens United on first amendment “free speech” grounds, certainly the 14th Amendment’s “equal protection” clause will allow the court to establish a legal right to marry the person on one’s choosing.
Polling on the issue is also positive. Despite rhetoric by certain politicians claiming that “most Americans” are against same sex marriage, the polling data unambiguously refute that notion. A plurality, and often an outright majority, of Americans support same-sex marriage. Many polls show greater than 50% support for same-sex marriage while polls using the term “civil union” routinely show support in the range of 60-70%. While this hasn’t always shown up voting day (e.g., the recent North Carolina case), recent polls show the “enthusiasm gap” between those who support vs. those who are against same-sex marriage has essentially disappeared.
Perhaps most important, when looking at the breakdown of polls by age, younger groups show even greater support for same-sex marriage. By extension, basic demographics dictate that, within 30 years (and likely much sooner) same-sex marriage will no longer be an issue. A visit to nearly any college campus would confirm that. No matter the money spent on the issue by the likes of Mr. Cathy from Chic-fil-A, on this matter he will ultimately be on the losing side of history.
In short, despite the lines at Chick-Fil-A, American’s are not opposed to same-sex marriages and unions. But, as this week shows, our LGBT friends and family still face huge obstacles in their quest for equality. Strong and very organized forces continue to seek to deny these individuals basic rights. However, many of the trends are favorable and progress is being made. But this is no time to sit back. I plan to continue to show my strong support for my gay and lesbian friends and I invite you to do the same. Please feel free to share this post widely.