Six months after Maryland, Maine and Washington voters endorsed same-sex marriage at the ballot box, two more states have adopted laws allowing gay couples to marry, and a third is poised to join them. On Tuesday, lawmakers in Delaware adopted a same-sex marriage law, and Minnesota’s House of Representatives passed a marriage equality measure there today, setting up a final vote in the Senate on Monday. Last week the Rhode Island legislature adopted a similar measure. That three states have moved to legalize gay marriage over the span of less than a month shows how quickly public attitudes toward same-sex unions are changing. Still, more progress may be difficult until more Republicans start to see the issue as one of civil rights, equal protection under the law and individual liberty.
Polls show that nearly 60 percent of Americans now believe gay marriage should be legal, up from less than 40 percent only a decade ago. Among young people, about 8 in 10 think gay couples should be allowed to marry, a trend that clearly favors wider acceptance of such unions in the future. The evolution of public opinion on same-sex marriage is in line with a broader movement toward recognition of gay rights that has manifested itself over the last year in spheres as varied as the Boy Scouts, professional sports teams and the military.
The Supreme Court is currently considering two cases related to same-sex marriage, one that could establish it as a right under the Constitution and another that could overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, which bans federal recognition of same-sex marriages. During oral arguments, the justices signaled varying degrees of discomfort with making a sweeping ruling in either case, but as the political battle over rights for gays tilts toward equality in state after state, such caution appears increasingly out of touch.