By Eric Zanzucchi (@ericzanzucchi)
In this year’s presidential campaign one of the hot issues is going to be the ever growing debate on gay marriage. Supporters and dissenters both have very strong opinions on the issue. As the debate rages on and politicians largely take their predictable stances on the issue, I can just sit up in the balcony and enjoy the theater.
The question I want to pose is does all the vitriol and passion on this issue amount to anything?
Throughout American history there are countless examples of once hot button issues now being viewed as the obvious natural outcome of societal evolution. There was a time in our country’s history not that long ago that abortion was largely illegal in every state. However, it was a state by state issue and starting in the mid-1960’s various states began to legalize abortion to varying degrees. In certain states the legality would depend on the trimester of the pregnancy and in certain states it would depend on the motive for the abortion (i.e. rape, incest, and harm to the health of the mother). As more states began to adopt some form of legal abortion some of these laws would get challenged in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court eventually deemed that forbidding abortion was unconstitutional in the 1973 Roe v. Wade case.
Had the Supreme Court ruled the other way, the case would have been challenged repeatedly until abortion was legalized as was the case with segregation. In the 1896 case of Plessy v. Ferguson separate but equal public services were deemed legal. However, in the 1954 case of Brown v. Board of Education the Supreme Court outlawed segregated public education facilities. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 then outlawed all segregation laws at any level of government.
The point being, it’s following a pattern. Gay marriage is the new hot social issue and it will be legal in our lifetimes (if you’re 27 like me). It’s more a question of when, not if. That being the case, it’s amusing for someone like me to watch people take such strong stances on the issue aside from the LGBT community, which this directly affects.
As for the when, the first state to legalize abortion in some form was Colorado in 1967 and it was federally legal in 1973. Abortion took six years to go fully through it’s legislative and judicial cycle. If we compare that to gay marriage, which Massachusetts legalized in 2004, it should’ve already become federally recognized. However, the late 1960’s and early 1970’s was a very liberal time in our country’s history that may have sped up the process. Nonetheless gay marriage is on the horizon whether you are a supporter or dissenter.