Prizm News / February 1, 2019 / By Bob Vitale
In less than four years, our right to marry has woven seamlessly into the fabric of American life.
Commentary by Bob Vitale
I have a confession to make. In all my life, I have attended just one same-sex wedding.
It was a lovely affair. My friends Jenn and Jerra married in September 2016 at the Pizzuti museum in Columbus. The music was moving. The day was sunny and warm. The artwork provided a beautiful backdrop, and the food was delicious.
The best part was seeing two people in love, who complement each other so perfectly, join their lives together.
I met Jenn and Jerra a couple years earlier when they found themselves in the media’s spotlight. A photographer they had contacted told them she didn’t believe in marriage equality and didn’t shoot same-sex weddings. It wasn’t a pleasant experience for them to go public with their story, but their courage paid off. Officials in Bexley, where the photographer had set up shop, were so appalled that they quickly added sexual orientation and gender identity to their local nondiscrimination laws.
Jenn and Jerra were married by Jim Obergefell, another LGBTQ Ohioan who stood up, spoke out and triumphed.
It hasn’t even been four years yet since the U.S. Supreme Court sided with Jim and his late husband, John Arthur, and ruled in favor of nationwide equality. It’s astounding, isn’t it, that a change so momentous, after a debate that affected us all so deeply, has so seamlessly blended into the fabric of American life?
Sure, there’s still the occasional Kim Davis out there, and Brett Kavanaugh taking Anthony Kennedy’s seat on the Supreme Court scares the hell out of us.
But a 2017 poll found that 61 percent of Ohioans now favor marriage equality. That’s the same percentage of voters in the state who rejected the idea in a 2004 ballot measure. Across the country, a majority of people in 44 states support our right to marry today. So do majorities in most religious groups.
“While it’s never over, I always believed we would win and always believed people would move,” Evan Wolfson, an architect of the marriage-equality movement, told me by email recently. Wolfson is a lawyer and LGBTQ advocate who founded Freedom to Marry in 2003.
“More than a million gay people have gotten legally married in the United States,” he said. “The allies and support we brought to our side continue to increase and are now part of our ongoing work to advance transgender as well as gay and lesbian inclusion and protections.”
Our right to marry was not just a goal, but also a strategy in the bigger fight for equality, Wolfson told me. The issue helped others see us in a new light, as part of communities and families. Support for nondiscrimination laws and other issues has gone up since.
On his first day in office last month, Gov. Mike DeWine issued an executive order that bans discrimination against LGBTQ people who work for state government. Although Ohio law’s silence on the issue means private employers, landlords and business owners in much of the state are still free to discriminate, our governor’s order called equal treatment “a matter of basic human decency.”
Is it a sign that DeWine might support a law giving all Ohioans the same assurance on the job and in their homes? We can hope.
“Marriage remains the gift that keeps on giving,” Wolfson said.
Bob Vitale is the editor of Prizm. You can reach him by email at email@example.com.