marriage equality and female suffrage: step by step change

So I haven't written anything about the recent state-level victories in the push for equal marriage rights for same-sex couples. But congratulations Rhode Island, Delaware, and Minnesota! We have friends in all three states who are feeling better about their country now, because their state legislatures have chosen to be more welcoming in the face of family diversity and human sexual diversity. I can only hope this trend continues.

And of course we're all waiting on tenterhooks for the DOMA ruling to be handed down by the end of the term.

As a historian, I've been watching the concurrent process of state-level victories and the DOMA challenge mindful of the way past struggles over the expansion of citizenship and constitutional protections have similarly progressed in fits and starts across our federated landscape.

Consider these two infographics:


I don't have any Big Important Thoughts about this process at the moment, except to say that I think people who argue we should leave the process to the states ignore the important role that our national government plays protecting the rights of minority populations ... and that people who are eagerly pushing for a national right to same-sex marriage sometimes ignore the symbiotic relationship between state and federal rights campaigns.

When this is all over, there will be a PhD dissertation in a comparative treatment of the woman suffrage and marriage equality campaigns (victories?!).

Addendum: It occurred to me, on my morning commute, that another parallel between the woman suffrage campaign and the marriage equality campaign is that both are specific issue campaigns that brought a diverse coalition of people with wide-ranging agendas together on one thing they could agree to push for. They are also both comparatively narrow victories that leave some folks unprotected (African-American women in the South; trans folks in many states) and run the risk of making it seem like all inequalities for a certain class of people have been swept away in a single moment.

The 19th Amendment, as we know nearly a century later, did not erase sexism and misogyny from our national landscape; marriage equality will not erase heterocentrism and anti-gay discrimination (as E.J. Graff points out in the link above). We would do well to remember that, even as we move forward in celebration.

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