Following Passage of Gay Marriage Bans in 11 States, ACLU Vows to Continue Striving for Equality

November 3, 2004 12:00 am

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Statement of Matt Coles, Director of the ACLU’s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project

NEW YORK — No movement for freedom has ever had a smooth path to progress, and the movement to end the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage is no different. Nine months ago when the mayor of San Francisco married thousands of lesbian and gay couples, we took a giant step forward. Millions of Americans learned how much gay people yearn for the security and place in society that marriage represents. Millions began to understand the commitments members of same-sex couples make to each other, and how unfair it is to treat those couples as strangers.

Last night, we took a step back. Eleven states changed the very charters that establish our society to try to keep same-sex couples out of that society forever. But we have to keep what happened yesterday in perspective. Most of these were states where we have hardly begun the discussion about the role of same-sex couples in American life.

In at least Oregon, more than 45 per cent of the people voted not to keep same-sex couples out of marriage. Only 10 years ago, we could hardly get 30 per cent of the public anywhere. The very concept of legal recognition of any kind for same-sex couples is just about 25 years old. Viewed in perspective, the rate of change has been nothing short of remarkable. And viewed in perspective, the direction of change has ultimately been toward the legal recognition of same-sex couples.

The results yesterday ended nothing. Lawsuits to end the exclusion will go forward in New York, California, Washington, Maryland, New Jersey, Florida, Connecticut and Indiana. Lawsuits to get equal treatment will continue in Alaska and Montana and New Jersey. And if the fight for equality in Oregon may take a little longer, it is hardly over. We will continue to fight for equal treatment through the courts. Moreover, we believe the day when the people of Oregon will reverse the decision they made yesterday is not far off.

Same-sex couples will marry, and become fully a part of the American landscape. The promise of equality in our constitution demands no less. And sooner or later, that promise will be kept.

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