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Editor's Letter: Thinking Back vs. Backward Thinking

Editor's Letter: Thinking Back vs. Backward Thinking


Recent progress in marriage equality has been quick, but with starts and stops. And while a handful of states's officials balk at court rulings, they're being surpassed by the place they'd least expect.

A year-end issue is always an exercise in nostalgia. We're reminded of the great and terrible events of the previous year -- and it's a much needed reality check for those of us in magazines who are accustomed to constantly looking several months into the future. But the week we put this issue to bed, the news media were consumed with developments in marriage equality cases. The week was a study not in nostalgia, but in truly retrograde thinking.

The Supreme Court rejected the appeals of five states (Virginia, Utah, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Oklahoma) to keep their unconstitutional bans on same-sex marriage, raising the number of marriage equality states from 19 to a possible 30. I'm sure we'll all have a better handle on the precise number in a few days, but as I write this, some states' attorneys general are fighting to keep the marriage equality bans that were deemed unconstitutional -- by rulings in 40 court cases.

As progress goes, this week's was both speedy and spasmodic. In Nevada, marriages were set to start, then they were stopped, and then were set to start up again -- glitches attributed to clerical errors in the order by Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy. More malevolently, Florida's Gov. Rick Scott said he'd stand by Attorney General Pam Bondi's vow to keep fighting for the ban despite having exhausted every single one of their legal options. Kansas governor Sam Brownback said he won't follow the federal appeals court rulings, and couples there are being deprived of their lawful rights. In South Carolina, Attorney General Alan Wilson and Gov. Nikki Haley are refusing, too. Call it denial, or call it pandering to conservative voters in the run-up to a midterm election. Is one any better than the other?

Ted Cruz, U.S. senator from Texas -- the human embodiment of a wrench in the works -- has gone full-tilt Michele Bachmann and said he'll introduce a constitutional amendment barring the federal government or the courts from overturning state marriage laws. No word yet on his plans for forcing gays into opposite-sex marriages or homo re-education camps.

Predictably, religious nuts said the action by SCOTUS would (a) bring an end to Western civilization, (b) subvert the laws of nature, (c) hasten the apocalypse. Can't argue with any of that, as those are clearly wait-and-see scenarios. Nevertheless, my money is on (d) business as usual, apart from a lot of really great weddings.

But it's Cruz, Brownback, Haley, and the rest, and all the people to whom they're pandering, that are terminally caught in the past. And who is leaving them in the dust? Estonia.

This same week, the Estonian parliament passed legislation, which was signed into law by its president, giving legal protections to cohabiting couples regardless of gender as of 2016.

To recap: Estonia, a former Soviet country, will recognize same-sex unions. South Carolina, Kansas, and Florida won't. If Estonia can figure it out and look toward the future, one with dignity and equality for its citizens, why can't Kansas?

Matthew Breen is editor-in-chief of The Advocate. You can find him on Twitter at @matbreen.

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