Barriers continue to be broken down – and at a quickened pace this year. The most exciting news has come from Florida, where gay and lesbian couples were able to get married after a long and bitter legal struggle. Appeals are still pending, but for now, the clerks began issuing marriage licenses on January 5th, and as many as 1,000 couples tied the knot in the first week. The government officials in Florida have been especially resistant to opening their doors to same-sex couples, filing endless appeals and resisting court orders whenever possible. In the most twisted of turns, many clerks are now refusing to perform marriages for any couples, gay or straight, rather than having to officiate at any “deviant” marriages.
Florida has long been a state of contradictions in the marriage equality campaign. On the one hand there is liberal Miami and gay-friendly Fort Lauderdale, where thousands of gay couples live openly. On the other hand the government agencies and the courts have been stridently hostile to gay parents, gay couples, or any form of equality. But thanks to a dedicated group of lawyers and activists, the situation has finally turned around. Florida was State #36 in the marriage equality battle — and it’s now estimated that 70% of this county’s population live in states that allow same-sex couples to wed. Fort Lauderdale didn’t miss a beat – they have launched a same-sex marriage advertisement campaign with big ads in the New York Times -
We’re still waiting to see if – and when – the United States Supreme Court will take up the dispute. There now is a justification for the high court to take the matter up for adjudication, as there are conflicts between the rulings of the various federal appellate circuits. If the Court doesn’t accept a case within the next few weeks, we’ll have to wait until next year’s cycle of decisions to hear what they have to say on the subject.
The other growing trend is the emergence of Men Having Babies , a dedicated group of gay men who are helping men who hire surrogates and are pushing for a better organized and more community minded surrogacy industry. They recently convened a gathering and expo of resources in San Francisco, and the nearly-200 guys in the audience definitely were part of a movement – the energy in the room was exuberant, a bit overwhelmed with all the information at times, but dynamic in every respect. The topics ranged from medical trends, available options, financial challenges, and ethical issues involving the choice of surrogates, the role of the various players, and the perennial questions of international surrogacy. As more and more men raise kids, the social climate and public acceptance of our families will certainly continue to improve.
So where are the remaining arenas of conflict and trouble? There remain 15 states which are still in the midst of legal challenges, and it will probably take another two-three years for the laws to be worked out in those states. And many non-marital challenges remain, especially for youth, transgender men and women, and other “non-conventional” LGBT folks. But to my mind, the real focus of attention needs to shift to international concerns, to countries where gays and lesbians are still being prosecuted, harassed, and even imprisoned or killed. Finding solutions to these international problems is not easy — as it’s hard for outsiders to intervene, it’s not clear what the impacts of international pressure will be, and it’s open for debate as to whether gays should stay and fight for change in their country, or try to leave and seek refugee or asylum status elsewhere. The first important step is for those of us who have found liberation at home to pay attention to what is happening to our brothers and sisters in less fortunate places – with the hope that solutions will emerge over time.