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Thomas A. Roberts

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How Governors Are Leading the Way on Same-Sex Marriage

Posted: 01/31/2012 4:32 pm

Is supporting marriage equality contagious? The governors of Maryland and Washington believe it is, as they support same-sex marriage legislation. More on that in a moment.

We focus a lot on social justice issues during my 11 a.m. hour on MSNBC, particularly marriage equality. I take great pride in shining a light on this issue, and why not? We're at a pivotal moment in our country when it comes to LGBT issues.

For instance, last year, for the first time ever, a national poll showed that 53 percent of America feels same-sex marriage should be recognized as law. That same poll reveals that Republicans and older Americans remain at odds with marriage equality.

However, most people, young people, feel that full marriage equality is just a matter of time. Specifically, you can thank college kids for that one. A new poll by UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) finds that 71.3 percent of college freshmen support same-sex marriage equality. So if 7 out of 10 college kids feel that way now, then it is logical to think that marriage equality is inevitable.

Is it bold for governors to support same-sex marriage now? It's certainly not unheard of, but nationally, it is bold. Consider this: only six states and Washington, D.C. recognize marriage equality. Safety in political numbers, right? Or is it the needed proof to demonstrate that marriage equality is not a threat to what is now dubbed "traditional marriage"?

Now more than ever, governors are tackling the basic "fairness" of this issue and are evolving, personally, to understand marriage equality as a civil rights issue. Civil rights.

Politicians are realizing they want to be remembered for standing on the right side of history. Just look at this recent trend and what certain elected officials are willing to do now.

Gov. Chris Gregoire of Washington wasn't always in favor of marriage equality. Gregoire was admittedly conflicted because of her Catholic faith, but she admits to a "personal journey" that convinced her to support it. She is also not running for a third term.

Gov. Martin O'Malley, also a Catholic, is putting his political neck on the line and, on a personal level, his religion, too. Catholic church leaders in Baltimore have urged O'Malley against supporting such a bill. I know personally and professionally about the strong Catholic church lobby in the Maryland State Legislature. Strong. O'Malley seems genuine, willing, and more than likely to get marriage equality passed on his watch. Will it cost him, or is this a calculated risk that will help make him a presidential contender in 2016?

Whatever the political calculations, the outcome is the same: the fight for marriage equality is on the move, on the march, and getting results. And as President Obama declared in his State of the Union address, "We've come too far to turn back now."

That gets us to the big interviews of Jan. 27. For months we have been aggressively trying to book Gov. Martin O'Malley to talk about marriage equality in Maryland. The week before last, we finally got him! It just so happens that O'Malley became available the same day we had already booked Gov. Gregoire. She was recently a guest on the show to talk about her bill for marriage equality. We invited her back on Jan. 27 because she has the votes needed to get it passed. Enjoy!