First it was Iowa, and our hearts sank.
How could Iowa—smack dab in the middle of the conservative heartland, birthplace of Michele Bachmann and John Wayne and, yes, John Wayne Gacy—get around to legalizing gay marriage while we, the great and pioneering California, had blown it with Proposition 8, we thought?
Vermont followed. Then New Hampshire. Ouch. When the very nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., passed gay marriage, it felt downright embarrassing to be from California.
But this past week’s events in New York have marked a turning point. As recently as 1960, homosexuality was a crime in all 50 states. New York is now the largest state thus far to recognize that love between two men or two women is not only valid but worthy of the institution of marriage. New York. The spigot has opened; it feels, resolutely, as if there is now no way back.
It’s also time to pull our heads up out of our self-loathing and shame and realize that the people of California—those who were married while it was possible, those who campaigned against Prop. 8, those who fought in San Francisco against all probable odds—helped start this. California’s hand in New York’s triumph may not be immediately apparent. But it exists.
Key to remember is that like other states, New York’s passage of gay marriage was a legislative one. There is no way to determine how New York’s voters would react were the legality of gay marriage put to a vote, as it was in California. It’s also far too complex to estimate in New York terms those mitigating factors that affected California’s vote: the $20 million of Mormon money that poured into the state to pay for blatantly misleading ads for Prop. 8, for example, or the $180,000 that the tax-exempt Mormon church itself admits that it spent on the campaign.
The current legal work in California is important work. The decisions made here will reverberate throughout the country. Equal rights protected by the courts are imminent, and as the joyous images from New York spread, we as California residents should no longer be ashamed of our knotty but crucial role in making history.
Gabe Meline is the editor of this paper.