For pretty much my whole adult life there have been very few political issues on which my brother and I agree. But in an interview that The Huffington Post did with my brother, there were actually multiple items that had me nodding my head when usually it would be shaking in exasperation. He stated that the Republicans could no longer ignore the shift in public opinion on marriage equality. Agreed! The percentage of Americans who support marriage equality is the highest it has ever been; in fact, support for marriage equality has increased by 21 percent in just the last eight years, and Gallup's recent poll showed 53 percent of Americans supporting marriage equality.
This support is a direct result of the second thing in the interview that I agree with: "It is in every family. It is in every community." HRC's Coming Out Project has stated for years that people who know someone LGBT are changed by it. Today, more people know same-sex couples, and that has helped them understand the need to legally recognize our relationships. The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that of those opposing marriage equality, 60 percent said they didn't know (or didn't know they know!) a gay or lesbian person.
Eureka! There is a third thing I agree with: In the near future there will be more states that vote to recognize marriage equality for same-sex couples. Already we have heard from elected leaders in Rhode Island, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota and Delaware that there will be a push for marriage equality in their states. And when DOMA is struck down as unconstitutional, another barrier to recognizing the relationships of gay and lesbian couples will have fallen.
There also is something that my brother said in the interview with which I do not agree (you knew it couldn't last!). Newt suggested that both he and the Republican Party could accept a distinction between a "marriage in a church from a legal document issued by the state." The fact is that there already is a distinction between ceremonial marriage (whether in a church, a synagogue or a temple, or on the beach, in a fire hall, etc.) and a legal marriage license. Marriage opponents have been effective at clouding this issue, but marriage equality will not and cannot force anyone to perform or hold a wedding ceremony in their house of worship. One of the important pieces of the marriage equality legislation in my home state of Maryland was clearly worded language that spelled this out. (On a related note, Maryland also passed the DREAM Act, another type of bill that my brother suggested Republicans should support.)
On a personal level, reading the interview made me proud of my brother. The time that my wife Rebecca and I have spent with Newt has had an effect, and he has evolved on marriage. I know this was just one interview, and I don't imagine he'll be googling PFLAG anytime soon, but it is most definitely progress. And while the rest of America may not get the spotlight my family does, this same progress is happening everywhere. It is inspiring to know that the conversations we as LGBT people have with our families and loved ones, neighbors, co-workers and classmates can lead to real change in hearts and minds. It's not an easy journey, and it sure ain't over, but I hope our family's experience can give a little hope to those who are on the same path.
Thanks for the early solstice present, brother. I look forward to your and the GOP's continued evolution on issues of LGBT equality.
This piece originally appeared on the HRC Blog.
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