Mixed Messages on Marriage


Contact: Nathan Richter or Peter Montgomery at People For the American Way

Email: [email protected]

Phone Number: 202-467-4999

Voters Approve Anti-Gay Amendment to Missouri Constitution; Washington Court Says State Must Allow Same-Sex Couples to Wed

On Wednesday, August 4, a Washington state court ruled that same-sex couples must be allowed to marry, explaining that a state law prohibiting them from marrying violates the state’s Constitution. Lambda Legal, co-counsel in a lawsuit on behalf of eight King County couples, called the decision “a historic ruling for fairness and equality.”

The day before, Missouri voters approved an amendment to the state constitution to ban recognition of marriages between same-sex couples, a significant setback to gay-rights supporters in Missouri and elsewhere. Similar measures apparently designed to drive up turnout among conservative voters will be on the ballot in a number of states this fall.

The mixed results reflect the give and take that can be expected in the short run as the nation moves toward full equality for gay and lesbian Americans, said People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas.

“Each of the great American social justice movements has faced resistance and backlash to forward progress,” Neas said. “Opponents of equality for gay and lesbian Americans are waging campaigns based on fear and falsehood. In Missouri this week, the resisters won the battle. But time and history are on our side. Equality will be won.”

In the Washington ruling, the judge called the eight couples “law-abiding, taxpaying model citizens,” and said, “There is no worthwhile institution that they would dishonor, much less destroy.”

Neas said that in spite of the loss in Missouri and potential losses in other states, the movement for marriage rights for same-sex couples has energized supporters of full equality for gay and lesbian Americans. “Basic human and civil rights should not rely on the whims of majority vote,” said Neas. “But the hard work of pro-equality organizations and countless individuals will bring us that support in the end.”

Neas noted that in Canada, public opinion in favor of marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples has shifted to a strong majority over the past year, as the country has lived with the reality of married same-sex couples thanks to court rulings in a number of provinces that marriage discrimination against same-sex couples violated equality provisions of the nation’s Constitution.

“The sky has not fallen on our neighbor to the north,” said Neas. “In the long run, Americans will reject the politics of fear and division and embrace the higher ideals of tolerance and equality under the law.”