BOSTON (AP) — Supporters and activists routinely ask gay couples to meet with reluctant lawmakers to put a human face on same-sex marriage. They file lawsuits. They use unexpected allies — in some cases, churches — to spread their message.
It’s a strategy that has shown results, with state bans falling in courts at a brisk clip, most recently in Idaho and Arkansas. And it was one that was first tried in Massachusetts, where 10 years ago Saturday, gay couples became the first in the nation to legally tie the knot.
“We’ve really used a spirit of relentlessness,” says Marc Solomon, the national campaign director for Freedom to Marry. “That’s the way we’ve approached this entire movement from the get-go in Massachusetts and around the country.”
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage. Judges in seven other states have struck down bans on gay marriage, though officials are appealing.
Opposition remains stiff in many places. Critics point out that most states still do not allow gay marriage and that in most of those that do, it was the work of courts or legislatures, not the will of the people.
Only Washington, Maryland and Maine have approved gay marriage through a public vote, while residents of 30 states have approved constitutional amendments to ban it.
As supporters have racked up victories, opponents have shifted their tactics. They still argue that gay marriage will damage the traditional institution, but they’ve intensified their arguments on religious freedom and states’ rights.
“I think the notion that it is a freight train of momentum has been greatly exaggerated and is just not true,” says John Eastman, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage.
What is undeniable, though, is a change in public attitudes.
Recent polls show that a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage; in 2004, only about 30 percent favored it. The U.S. Supreme Court last year struck down a key part of a federal law defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Forty percent of Americans now live in states where gay people can marry.