A common refrain in the debate over same-sex marriage is that we ought to support the idea as soon as possible in order to be on the right side of history (every day in every way, we’re getting equaler and equaler) but this “inevitable” idea just can’t seem to shake its evitability.
The preferred narrative this week posits the continuing march of same-sex marriage in Washington and New Jersey. A closer look would give us pause. A referendum on the just-approved Washington same-sex marriage bill is already in the works; New Jersey governor Chris Christie has promised to veto the same-sex marriage bill there because he supports a public referendum on the issue; in Maryland, the same-sex marriage bill was amended yesterday to ensure there would be time for a referendum to be launched if that bill is passed, not to mention upcoming votes on marriage amendments in North Carolina and Minnesota.
This is probably not good news for gay-marriage advocates. The enduring gains for same-sex marriage have typically occurred where public input could be kept to a minimum because they were mandated by court order and amending the state constitution was extremely difficult. (California’s Proposition 8 is instructive because amending was not difficult, so the court decision of 2008 was reversed months later, and advocates have had to resort to the courts again.) There have been legislative gains, but the stories of New Hampshire, New York, etc. aren’t over yet.
There’s no inevitability here, just a rough road ahead.