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Friday
May162014

As Gay Marriage Turns 10, US Public Opinion Tips

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Ten years ago on Saturday, Robyn Ochs and Peg Preble married in Massachusetts. They were the first same-sex couple to be married, the day same-sex marriage was legalized in the state. Since then, 17 states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage.

At the forefront of the movement is lawyer and civil rights activist, Mary Bonauto, who has been called the “Thurgood Marshall” of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

Bonauto began her push for marriage equality in the late 90s with an almost-win in Vermont in 1997. Gay marriage was still not recognized in Vermont, but the state would recognize the right to benefits for gay couples. 

In 2001, Bonauto filed in Massachusetts in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, a landmark case decided on May 17, 2004, when Massachusetts became the first state to recognize marriage between same-sex couples.

“It’s hard to describe the many many feelings I have. On the one hand, realizing that we won in court is incredible, I couldn’t believe it’s really happening. I was so relieved and so happy,” said Bonauto. “I felt protective of people…and to finally see my clients getting married and all the other marriages, I just felt like at last this is going to make a difference in their life and they are going to be more secure. I absolutely felt not only the joy that overtook the state but really felt the way in which people stood taller.”

Over the past decade there has been a dramatic shift in public attitudes on the issue. An ABC News/Washington Post poll from March found approval for same-sex marriage was at an all-time high with 59 percent of total respondents saying they approve, including 75 percent of respondents under 30 years old.

“The reason the numbers have changed so fast and so dramatically on this question of gay marriage is because everybody in America now has experience with someone who is gay,” ABC’s Cokie Roberts said on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos last month. “People have come out of the closet and said, ‘I am your brother. I am your sister. I am your cousin. I am your friend.’

Like Massachusetts Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker, whose brother Alex is gay. Baker released a video Thursday in honor of the 10-year anniversary, showing his support for the gay community. The video shows Baker and his brother talking about the time Alex came out.

Bonauto notes that there is enormous public engagement from every branch of government and the people.

“Legislators don’t do this on their own, they need help from constituents. Clearly the public is engaged and moving in one direction–which is to support gay marriage,” she said

Last week, two states -- Idaho and Arkansas -- struck down their bans on gay-marriage. Gov. Butch Otter, R-Idaho, says he has plans to appeal the decision. Judges in Idaho, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Virginia have also struck down bans on gay marriage.


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