Grand Divisions

Tennessee Equality Project seeks to advance and protect the civil rights of our State’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons and their families in each Grand Division.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Road to Marriage in the South: Part 2

In my last post, I talked about developments in Illinois and Texas that put those two states on the road to marriage equality. I mentioned Virginia and North Carolina as the two states most likely to achieve marriage equality in the South. I should have backed that assertion up with a little checking. There are, in fact, small developments that bear out the prediction, though I suspect those victories are still years away.

In Virginia, Republican candidate for the House of Delegates Eric Brescia submitted an October 2 column to the Washington Blade arguing that equality requires Republican allies. He hopes to be that ally:

IF THE REPUBLICAN Party wants to be relevant for the newest generation of voters, it cannot continue to drive a social wedge between those who seek to protect “traditional marriage” and those who seek to extend the rights and responsibilities to couples who want to enjoy such a commitment. And if gays and lesbians want to enter into civil marriages in states like Virginia, they’re going to need Republicans in Richmond advocating on their behalf. The GOP is the majority party in Virginia’s House of Delegates and polls indicate Republicans could win the three statewide races — governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general — this November. No change in Virginia law will be possible without a broad coalition and an advocate for equal rights working within the majority party.

Whether you call him Don Quixote or a pioneer, he's right. Marriage equality won't come to the South without some Republicans moving on the issue. Whether Brescia becomes the first in a minor chorus or an anomaly for the next five to ten years depends, of course, on whether he wins.

Across the border in North Carolina, a billboard campaign for marriage equality has begun. Although some would consider any such campaign an in-your-face gesture, this one is really restrained. It shows four couples with the number of years they've been together and asks, "Haven't we waited long enough?" The campaign debuted in Greensboro, which is surprising because one might have expected Raleigh-Durham or Charlotte.

Both Brescia's candidacy and the North Carolina billboard campaign are the start or the new start of many difficult public discussions about marriage equality in the two Southern states that could lead the way. What they have begun will eventually spill over into their neighbor to the West and we welcome the discussion.

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