We May Be Winning—But We Have Not Won

by Donna Red Wing, Executive Director of One Iowa

SCOTUSAs we celebrate recent decisions by the courts paving the way for marriage equality across the nation, we cannot ignore those who continue to oppose marriage equality.

We saw a great deal of public discourse after the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to intervene in any of the same-sex marriage cases presented to it this term. This “non-decision” by the court effectively legalized marriage equality in five more states and helped pave the way for marriage in several others.

In one discussion, the conservative organization The Family Leader referred to our highest court’s justices as “non-accountable,” saying they were “punting on their duty…” In addition, the organization accused the justices of disrespecting the “tens of millions of voters” that have voted for constitutional amendments banning unions between loving, committed gay and lesbian couples by popular vote. Many of these amendments, it should be noted, were passed years ago, when public opinion on marriage and equality for LGBT people was still evolving.

Adding insult to injury, The Family Leader took its outdated and hurtful rhetoric on the road as part of a statewide bus tour. During the tour, The Family Leader invited national leaders and Iowa conservatives to join its cause, calling for a return to the way things used to be, the way they “ought to be.”

We must never forget Iowa’s great legacy as the third state in the nation to embrace the freedom to marry. Iowa made it possible for our neighbors and friends in other Midwestern “flyover” states to believe that they could take the steps needed to support equality for LGBT families.

As advocates for marriage and for LGBT equality, we know we are winning. With 32 states and the District of Columbia that currently enjoy the freedom to marry, we are at the tipping point. What’s more, that number only seems to be increasing week after week, month after month.

And, for the first time in history, even our President is with us on the issue of marriage. In this month’s interview with The New Yorker, President Obama—whose stance on marriage has admittedly evolved over the years—said, “Ultimately, I think the Equal Protection Clause does guarantee same-sex marriage in all fifty states.” He added, “And, given the direction of society, for the Court to have allowed the process to play out the way it has may make the shift less controversial and more lasting.”

Iowa plays a big part in the historical movement toward equality. As our opponents point fingers at our prized judicial system and make misguided claims about so-called “activist judges,” we need to remember that while we might be winning, we have not yet won.

As advocates for the great cause of equality, it is our job to change hearts and minds, to change the culture with our voices and by sharing our stories. Perhaps it’s time to reach out to our opponents with generosity and integrity in quiet conversations.

The theologian Martin Marty once said, “You cannot have justice without argument—in politics, in commerce, or anywhere. So the issue is to make it civil.” This is my call to action: to engage with those who would work against us, and to participate in a civil, respectful and heartfelt dialogue.

In these last weeks before the midterm elections, as we are bombarded with the ongoing buzz of political rhetoric from both sides of the debate, I wonder what kinds of conversations we can have after November 4.

Let’s talk. Let’s listen. Together, let’s change the world.