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Next week the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments about whether the federal government (through the Defense of Marriage Act) can continue to deny benefits to same-sex married couples that heterosexual married people receive and will also hear challenges to a California vote banning same-sex marriage.
It’s a momentous occasion and one that has been a long time coming. While the legal cases made their way through the circuit court system and to the Supreme Court justices, the thinking of the many, many people in the country has changed.
A Reuters survey announced this week reported that 55 percent of those surveyed agreed that married same-sex couples should qualify for Social Security survivor payments and other benefits available to heterosexual couples.
A Washington Post survey from earlier this week found that 58 percent of Americans believe same-sex couples should have the legal benefits of marriage and 36 percent believe same-sex marriage should be illegal. A decade ago, 37 percent of Americans were supporters of same-sex marriage while 55 percent were not.
But a lot has changed in that decade. Since Vermont became the first state in the nation to address the issue by creating civil unions for same-sex couples in 2000, many other states have first offered civil unions and later same-sex marriage.
Same-sex marriage is now legal in nine states and the District of Columbia and civil unions are legal in nine states.
According to the Reuters poll, the support for same-sex marriage (and equal access to marriage benefits) crosses all regions of the country.
In February more than two dozen high-ranking Republicans signed a legal brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to declare that same-sex couples have a right to wed.
And, just last week, Republican Senator Rob Portman from Ohio added his voice to the voices of those who support same-sex marriage. Portman’s support is appreciated, but, because his support is conditioned on having a son who is gay and after a long history of opposition to equal rights for same-sex couples, his support is less clear.
Because when it is his son who is gay, equality for all people is right, but not when it was other peoples’ sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, or best friends. But every voice in support of doing the right thing counts.
Let’s hope the Supremes are listening.