July 4th, 1863 and November 6th, 2012
July 4th, 1863 was a big day for the North. On the 3rd, Lee had been defeated at Gettysburg and on the 4th he began his retreat. On the 4th, Vicksburg fell to the Union.
While historians will argue whether or not these two events were the turning point of the war, they heralded the end of a long war and ended a long string of Union failures.
I bring up the date because there is a difference between winning a battle and winning a war. If you study the civil war enough, you will realize that the Union always had better resources. They had more industry. They had more men. They had better technology. I don’t want to say a Union victory was inevitable but it was certainly the most likely outcome.
Until July 4th, 1863, that outcome was very much in doubt. After July 4th, the Confederacy was going to fall. Those two battles signaled the end of the war.
Gay Marriage, to me, is the same way. The tide of progress moves slowly forward and eventually our children will be surprised to learn there was ever a time where homosexuals could not be legally married.
But until November 6th, 2012, we’d lost a lot of battles.
We’d lost battles we expected to lose. Like North Carolina.
We’d lost battles we expected to win. Like California.
But every time gay marriage went up for a popular vote, we lost. It was disheartening.
We’d won some battles in court and in some legislatures. Yet when the public was asked to vote on a civil rights issue, the battles kept coming out against us.
On November 6th, 2012, there were four initiatives on the ballot in four different states. Washington, Maine, and Maryland were voting to approve gay marriage. Minnesota was voting to make it illegal.
Just two weeks ago, the numbers in Maryland and Minnesota didn’t look promising.
And yet when the votes were counted, all four states voted in favor of marriage equality. For the first time in this war, we won the battles that really mattered.
Gay marriage is legal in Maine and Maryland. It was already legal in Washington but Focus on the Family and their allies were unsuccessful in their attempt to turn back the clock.
In Minnesota, we became the first state to strike down an amendment specifically designed to ensure homosexuals could not legally marry.
These results are huge. I’ve always felt we’d win this war but we are finally winning some battles.
Opponents of gay marriage will point to their 30+ victories and argue that these results don’t represent a trend.
The rest of us can point to the polls all over the country and tell them that they are wrong. If we liberals need to concede defeat on gun control, it is only a matter of time until the religious right will need to concede defeat on gay marriage.
The fight isn’t over. There are a great many more battles to be fought. And we are going to lose some of them. The people fighting against us aren’t even close to giving up.
Marriage equality is happening, folks. Someday we’ll look back on November 6th, 2012 and see it as the day the war started going our way.
Note: Greg Laden wrote a great piece inspired by my comments.