There's a challenge before the Supreme Court—and that's enough to make you nervous—but barring a little judicial activism by the Supremes, Washington D.C. will start issuing marriage licenses tomorrow. Three days later same-sex couples in D.C. will be start marrying and will then be entitled to all the legal rights and obligations of marriage that the city/state/anomaly of D.C. can bestow. (None of the newly married couples will have access to the 1000+ federal benefits of marriage the right to file joint tax returns, emigration rights, social security benefits.) The offices that issue marriage licenses in D.C. are "preparing for what they expect to be a flood of same-sex couples descending on the courthouse Wednesday."
And then there's this:
Getting black voters' support [in Washington D.C.] for gay marriage wasn't necessarily easy. A widely used exit poll conducted for The Associated Press during the 2008 election found 70 percent of black California voters approved of a measure banning gay marriage, compared with 49 percent of white voters. A poll in Florida, where residents voted on a similar issue that year, had comparable support from black voters [for banning gay marriage], who make up about 16 percent of the state's population.
Black supporters of gay marriage in Washington disputed those numbers and argued that black voters were unfairly blamed for pushing the California measure to success. Opponents have argued the numbers were true and relevant, suggesting that D.C. voters would certainly reject gay marriage if given the opportunity.
But lawmakers, not voters, legalized gay marriage in Washington, and the measure always had the support of black D.C. Council members. Five black members on the 13-member council ultimately supported it, though the only "no" votes came from two black members in heavily black districts.
That's what the challenge before the Supreme Court is about: opponents of marriage equality want a public vote on gay marriage, a vote they have every reason to hope they would win.
During the rabid debate about the African American vote in California after Prop 8—once again: I never wrote that the African American vote in CA was decisive, only that African American support for Prop 8 was shocking (and how interesting to learn now that exit polls in CA and FL found similar support for banning gay marriage among African Americans)—supporters of same-sex marriage were encouraged to "learn the lessons" of Prop 8. And the lessons gay marriage campaigners, black and white, were supposed to take away were these: outreach to African Americans is hugely important (even if the African American vote in California wasn't large enough to impact the election in any way), and African Americans take great offense when gay people or groups compare our struggle to the African American civil rights movement. But gay marriage supporters in D.C. did just that:
Gay and lesbian couples will soon be able to marry in Washington, but the debate over same-sex marriage has sounded different here, with references to interracial marriage and Martin Luther King.... To speak to voters in D.C., supporters drew parallels to Martin Luther King Jr.'s advocacy for equal rights. They said same-sex marriage bans would one day seem as ridiculous as the interracial marriage bans overturned by the Supreme Court in 1967.
And this strategy was successful—with the African American members of the D.C. city council at least.