08 April 2009

Photos from Vermont....and what's next

Vermont photographer Karen Pike has a wonderful set of photos up from the Vermont statehouse, capturing lawmakers before the vote and the emotional reaction from the crowd afterwards. I am particularly moved by the shots of Vermont Freedom to Marry's Beth Robinson, and the shots of a couple who have been together for 42 years.

One of the lessons from Vermont is that marriage equality comes after years of work. It's been a decade since Vermont, with its civil union law, became the first state in the US to offer same-sex couples the state-level legal benefits associated with marriage. The civil union law emerged after a court case (litigated by Beth Robinson and Susan Murray), and that court case emerged after years of foundational grassroots politicking. Vermont Freedom to Marry has been a presence at fairs, parades, and town meetings all across Vermont for years now. It's made movies, trained speakers, and lobbied. It's placed letters in favor of marriage equality in local newspaper all across the state. It's organized business people and clergy all around the state. It's gotten the message out, in a small state that prizes local governance, that marriage equality is good for all Vermonters. It's easy, when you read about the court decisions or the Vermont legislature's vote yesterday, to miss all those years of organizing. My hat is off for Robinson and all the other staff at Vermont Freedom to Marry, but also to the thousands of people they've been in contact with over the years. They changed things in Vermont one person at a time, and that's impressive.

What's happening in Iowa now shows that court decisions alone can't change things. There's been an immediate on-the-ground backlash calling for an Iowa constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman (that amendment wouldn't be possible until 2012, I think, but the process could start now). One Iowa is marshalling folks to contact their legislators to urge them to take a stand respecting the court decision. If you're reading this in Iowa, please call or write your legislators.

I'm going to be writing the Iowa governor and Iowa senate majority leader--to let them know how happy I am when I think about Iowa this week. They don't need to hear out-of-staters tell them what to do, but I imagine they'd like to know what a positive impression the Iowa court decision is making in my part of the woods.

Vermont Freedom to Marry, by the way, is encouraging Vermonters to write and thank all the legislators who voted for the override (particularly the 3 who changed their votes, voting for the override after voting against the original bill). That's good follow up.

My favorite tweet on the subject: "The Green Mountain State goes rainbow."


Mrs H said...

I'm an Iowan. I'm thrilled with the unanimous (which i can't spell) decision! We're doing all we can to keep the haters at bay.

Arwen said...

Fivethirtyeight.com did a regression analysis on how long it might be for all the states to recognize marriage equality based on age of population, evangelicals, etc., and he admits that there are other factors (including snowballing change) that may change the picture. I think organizational commitment has got to be one; not giving up.

There's that saying: "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." -- I think from Ghandi. Movements do go through those stages, and it's easy to have the movement become demoralized by laughter or opposition. When they don't, they change the world.

kathy a. said...

those photos make me cry, again and again. in the good way.

i'm hoping that the cal supremes will find the way to do the right thing again. it is a conservative court, and news accounts of argument didn't sound so good. but how can a simple majority vote override a fundamental constitutional right, based on equal protection? there will be a decision, one way or another, by early june. if it comes out badly, there is at least momentum to keep changing one mind at a time.