On Tuesday, the eyes of the nation will be watching California, during what is being billed as the "Day of Decision" by marriage equality activists all across the land. Why? Because the California Supreme Court is expected to issue its highly anticipated ruling on whether or not Proposition 8, the controversial ballot initiative which amended the state constitution to ban gay marriage, should be upheld or invalidated.
After the oral arguments in March, many court watchers predicted that the Supreme Court would respect the will of the voters and allow Prop. 8 to stand. If that is indeed the case, those who support same-sex marriage will hold protests across the country. If the justices surprise everyone by overturning it, those protests will become celebrations.
For those on both sides of the issue, the stakes are high. For one thing, there are an estimated 20,000 gay couples who are, for now, legally married in the state. Will the court allow those marriages to continue, or will they be forcibly annulled?
Also, California is the biggest state in the union in terms of population. Whichever side wins tomorrow will claim a big victory - and momentum.
But taking a step back for a moment, it does seem as if the train has already left the station. Since the California court took up this issue, three other states have begun granting same-sex couples the right to marry: Iowa, Vermont, and Maine. New Hampshire, New York, and New Jersey are poised to follow.
The Golden State has had a reputation for being a trend setter on policy matters over the years, but on this issue, at least, it seems lagging. Northeastern states are the ones driving the agenda now.
In deed, a new front has already been opened up in Massachusetts, which started performing the first same-sex marriages five years ago. There, a lawsuit filed on behalf of 19 gays and lesbians - including the widower of Gerry Studds, the first openly gay Congressman - challenges provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act that prohibit the federal government from recognizing lesbian and gay couples.
This lawsuit alleges that the law discriminates against married lesbian and gay couples by denying them rights like Social Security spousal benefits, family medical leave, and the ability to file taxes jointly.
No doubt challenges to another DOMA provision - that which allows states to deny recognition to legally performed same-sex marriages in other states - are in the works. President Obama has said he would like to see DOMA repealed.
Now don't get me wrong - I'm not trying to underplay the importance of a California victory for supporters of marriage equality. They want it just as badly as their opponents.
But these days, it does seem that proponents of traditional marriage are the ones who need it more. For more than a decade, they have marched across the country easily passing one same-sex marriage ban after another. But that movement seems to have now stalled, and marriage equality activists are the ones on the offensive.
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