The first marriages of same-sex couples in Vermont last Tuesday were just the impetus I needed to finish up our new marriage laws and relationship recognition maps. Like a 5-year-old with a new pack of crayons, I happily filled in states with blue (the color for marriage), green (for New York and D.C., which recognize out-of-state marriages) and yellow (the color of “all-but-the-name” civil unions and domestic partnerships, which grant the same rights and responsibilities as marriage). Even the grey states — which have some sort of “less-than-marriage” relationship recognition for same-sex couples — were satisfying, since adding them meant that there’s almost no region of the country without a state that recognizes our relationships. (Sorry Southerners, but you’ll get there!)
Then, after the burst of satisfaction, there was anxiety. What kind of crazy person could get anxious coloring in a map, you might ask. Well, I’ll tell you who: Me. And I’ll tell you why: The asterisks.
I had to add asterisks to the map to note the two states — Maine and Washington — where recognition granted to same-sex relationships will be up for a popular vote in November. Similar to what happened in California last year, voters in these two states could take back the progress that their legislatures made in the march towards equality. The asterisks mean that two big steps forward could wind up being two big steps back.
So these asterisks on my new map are giving me agita (and will until I’m watching the election results come in on November 3), but they’re also a challenge to each of us. These two elections don’t have to be a repeat of Prop 8. The Maine Civil Liberties Union is part of a coalition of groups fighting to keep marriage in Maine. They’re encouraging supporters of equality everywhere to take a “volunteer vacation” this fall and go to Maine to work on the campaign. Washington Families Standing Together, the coalition of groups (including the ACLU of Washington State) working to retain comprehensive domestic partnerships, is also looking for volunteers support. If you can’t make it to either corner of the country, the campaigns could use your financial support. (While you’re at it, encourage your friends to give as well!)
Losing marriage in California was a huge disappointment for our community, but the progress in Maine and Washington (not to mention Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and Nevada) have helped us regain our footing and realize that we’re still moving forward. Let’s not let our new progress become the next setback. Contact one of the campaigns today and find out what you can do to get involved. I promise you this: On November 3, you’ll be glad you did.