Rallying on the right side of history

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court concluded two days of courtroom debate on two landmark cases in gay rights, Hollingsworth v. Perry (the challenge to California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in the state) and United States v. Windsor (the challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman). Although rulings on the two cases aren’t expected for months, pundits are predicting that DOMA will be struck down and are unsure what will happen with Proposition 8.

If you were on Facebook during the past two days, you probably noticed a flood of red on your newsfeed. This red tide was the result of hundreds of students changing their profile pictures to a pink and red equals sign to show their support for marriage equality. While simply changing your profile picture does not make you an activist, it does show solidarity and may encourage other people to be more open with their support for equality. The mass profile picture change also opened up a conversation that for many people was not previously being had. If you changed your profile picture, consider taking more steps to show your support, like calling your representative to express your feelings on the issue or having a conversation or debate with someone who disagrees with you.

Some have asked why the Senate simply doesn’t pass a new bill striking down the legislation they passed in 1996 (DOMA). While it seemed for a while that the numbers were against gay rights advocates in getting legislation passed, a number of senators have reversed their positions on marriage equality over the past week. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, announced his change on the issue after a lengthy discussion with his son, who recently came out as gay. Missouri’s own Senator Claire McCaskill came out in support of marriage equality on her Tumblr page, writing:

“I have come to the conclusion that our government should not limit the right to marry based on who you love. While churches should never be required to conduct marriages outside of their religious beliefs, neither should the government tell people who they have a right to marry.”

We applaud Senator McCaskill for positioning herself on the right side of history. It is a brave political move given the leanings of Missouri. Fewer than 10 years ago, in 2004, Amendment 2 banned same-sex marriage with more than 70 percent of the vote, and recent polling shows that a majority of voters in the state are still against marriage equality. And after a contentious reelection campaign in which she triumphed despite all odds because of her opponent’s implosion, taking such a strong stand shows both courage and a belief in putting convictions before politics. Hopefully the Supreme Court follows, and marriage equality, like the women’s vote and interracial marriage, becomes the latest civil rights success story in America.

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