In Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, a divided court not only held that excluding gay people from civil marriage was discriminatory, but also that the only remedy was providing equal access to marriage. By May , samesex weddings started taking place across the Bay State. To avoid a replay of Hawaii, where progress in the courts met with political backlash, activists deployed a more sophisticated strategy in Massachusetts following the win in Goodridge. MassEquality, a new statewide LGBT advocacy organization, was founded to spearhead advocacy and public education efforts.
Donors and philanthropic foundations supported a multiyear campaign to protect the win in Massachusetts at all costs. It would prove to be an epic fight over three years, mobilizing armies of activists and interest groups on both sides and costing millions of dollars. From the outset, Gov.
In Massachusetts, amendments to the state constitution may be enacted in two ways. They may be approved by a majority of legislators, meeting in a constitutional convention over two successive legislative sessions, followed by a voter referendum. Or they may be presented to the legislature by petition, requiring approval by only a quarter of legislators during two successive sessions before a voter referendum. Opponents of same-sex marriage deployed both strategies between and Neither succeeded. Meanwhile, the advent of same-sex marriages in Massachusetts unleashed a wave of new activism — and a tsunami of political outrage.
Inspired by the prospect of a major civil rights milestone, mayors in San Francisco 12 and New Paltz, New York 13 ordered the issuance of marriage licenses and officiated at marriages of same-sex couples. TV cameras beamed images of happy same-sex newlyweds all across the country. Self-proclaimed defenders of traditional marriage called for an amendment to the United States Constitution to define marriage as the union between one man and one woman. In February , as his re-election campaign was getting underway, President George W.
Bush lent his support. Congress would vote on two separate iterations of the amendment in and But supporters fell far short of the supermajorities 14 needed and the federal amendment strategy died. Working with state-level activists, Rove helped orchestrate campaigns to introduce ballot initiatives in 13 states, including the pivotal state of Ohio, that would amend state constitutions to ban same-sex marriage.
On Election Day , all 13 measures easily passed. In total, 31 states would amend their constitutions through popular referendums to preclude same-sex marriage. Others would pass legislation similar to the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Some of these measures allowed for civil unions or similar protections, while others foreclosed any legal protections for same-sex couples.
At this low moment for the marriage equality movement, leading strategists and funders regrouped to devise a realistic, winnable strategy. While the goal of winning marriage equality nationwide in the Supreme Court or Congress did not seem achievable in the near-term, the movement envisioned a series of incremental wins that would pave the way for a national solution. This plan, which seemed like a stretch at the time, helped focus advocacy efforts and the allocation of resources.
It also lent strategic focus — and a sense of optimism — when it was needed most. At the same time, the goal of marriage equality was far from universally embraced within the LGBT community. The setbacks of led some to question why marriage was a movement priority at all. Others worried that other movement priorities were being given short shrift.
Lean Out. All Rights Reserved. Using a law put in place to stop out-of-state couples from marrying in Massachusetts, Romney barred same-sex couples from coming to the state with the sole perhaps of marrying. Romney told two TV stations in Denver on Wednesday that he opposes same-sex marriages or any civil unions that result in the same type of legal rights for same-sex couples. Romney and Reilly tussled in March over the governor's last-ditch maneuver to block legalization of same-sex marriages.
To strengthen the campaign for the long haul, activists and funders came together around a more sophisticated, multi-pronged strategy, with public education as the centerpiece. Significant polling and message research was done, but for a few years strategists dithered on whether putting a human face on the issue — showcasing real LGBT families, for example — would help or hinder the cause. Organizing and broadening the base was also a priority.
Same-sex marriage has been legally recognized in the U.S state of Massachusetts since May . Governor Mitt Romney said he disagreed with the SJC's decision, but "We He called for the Legislature to act during its scheduled joint session to put a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage to a popular vote. Friday's Supreme Court ruling making same-sex marriages legal across the United States finalizes a trend that began in Massachusetts in
Target audiences included communities of color where polling revealed greater discomfort on gay rights issues, often tied to deeply held religious beliefs and businesses which had unique credibility with legislators and opinion leaders. Another key constituency was faith leaders and religious congregations whose support for same-sex marriage was grounded in their religious beliefs. Finally, advocacy capacity at the state level was viewed as pivotal.
Historically, state-based LGBT rights groups were small and perennially under-resourced — if they even existed at all. The success of MassEquality prompted the creation of similar groups in other states. It also led a group of foundations that support marriage equality to create the Civil Marriage Collaborative, a grant-making initiative that pooled foundation funds to strengthen and build a state-by-state movement for marriage equality.
Following the success in Massachusetts, legal advocates launched litigation efforts in a number of other states. In and , high courts in New York, New Jersey, 15 Maryland, and Washington all held, by narrow margins, that same-sex couples had no constitutional right to marry. The majority opinions in those cases stated that the only recourse was through legislation. Dissenting opinions countered that fundamental rights may not be left to the legislative process. Andrew Sullivan, a pioneering conservative advocate of marriage equality, has argued that these setbacks were a blessing in disguise.
In the blue states at least, the failure of courts to act focused advocacy efforts on persuading the American people and their elected representatives. By , a new generation of political candidates — friendly to the LGBT community, which provided them financial and other forms of support — vowed to support marriage equality if elected.
The election, which brought Democrats to power in a number of statehouses, marked another turning point. A flood of pro-LGBT legislation was enacted in the next legislative session, including civil union measures in New Jersey, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Oregon one of the 13 states to pass a marriage ban in In California, which enacted civil unions in , the legislature twice passed a marriage equality bill — the first legislature to do so.
Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed both measures, however, asserting that marriage equality was an issue for the courts to decide. A marriage bill was also introduced in Connecticut that year, but went nowhere when Gov. Jodi Rell threatened a veto. By , following more good election results for Democrats, the governors of three New England states — Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine — signed marriage equality legislation into law. The success in these three states was soon tempered — the Maine law was overturned by a popular referendum — but the potential of a legislative strategy was apparent.
In California, where Schwarzenegger twice vetoed a marriage bill, the National Center for Lesbian Rights developed a new, litigation-focused strategy that bore fruit: In May , the California Supreme Court ruled that access to marriage was a fundamental right under the state constitution. That same year, the Connecticut Supreme Court followed suit, holding that making civil unions, but not marriage, available to same-sex couples violated the equality and liberty provisions of the state constitution. And then, in , a unanimous Iowa Supreme Court similarly held that the equal protection provisions in its state charter mandated marriage rights for same-sex couples.
Predictably, the victory in California led to calls for a statewide ballot measure to reverse it. Proposition 8 was submitted for the November election ballot after garnering more than 1. In the five months between the court ruling and Election Day, 18, couples were married in the state. Supreme Court.
The ruling of the Iowa court, meanwhile, faced a public verdict of a different sort: an organized campaign of retribution against individual justices. Iowa uses a merit selection system for its supreme court. Under that system, justices are initially appointed to the bench and then face periodic retention elections. A second campaign in , targeting another justice, did not succeed. The story played out differently in Connecticut.
Freedom to Marry worked with key national partners to raise significantly larger sums for the marriage equality effort. The increased funds supported the creation of state marriage equality campaigns operating with greater sophistication and coordination. Those campaigns started projects like Mayors for Marriage and Young Conservatives for Marriage — signaling that no group or population would be ignored or presumed to be unreachable.
The movement also ramped up its social media capabilities, developing mini-campaigns that focused on the stories of real couples. Freedom to Marry also created a c 4 sister entity, allowing greater flexibility to engage in political activity, and aligned with powerful political donor networks including the Gill Action Fund, which steered contributions to LGBT-friendly candidates nationwide. The defeat in California also prompted the movement to overhaul its messaging.
The advice of messaging consultants to emphasize the rights and benefits of marriage had not worked. For the first time, polls began to trend toward majority support for marriage equality. And, significantly, opposition to same-sex marriage began to lose its power as a wedge issue. Many Republicans, who had embraced the issue in , looked for ways to avoid the topic. Increasingly, it was pro-equality Democrats with national ambitions — including New York Gov.
Andrew Cuomo and Maryland Gov. In his first year as governor, Cuomo signaled his commitment to the passage of a marriage equality bill. He worked with activists and funders on a sophisticated strategy to build public support. In June , the strategy paid off when Cuomo signed the measure into law, making New York the sixth marriage equality state.
The New York win was a crucial milestone.
It gave renewed confidence to the activists who lobbied present and future politicians, and it lent, for the first time, an air of inevitability to the state-by-state battle. The year after New York enacted its marriage equality law, legislatures in Washington and Maryland passed marriage equality legislation, subject to ratification by the voters on Election Day. With the tide shifting dramatically, marriage equality emerged as a political issue in the election campaign, but this time it was not a wedge issue.
An increasing number of downticket candidates followed suit.