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HRC: "2012 will be the year of marriage equality"

WASHINGTON – “It looks like 2012 will be the year of marriage equality.”

So says Fred Sainz, former spokesman for San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, who is now vice president of communications and marketing for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).

The HRC conducted a teleconference on Wednesday afternoon to discuss that status of marriage equality and other LGBT issues on court dockets and ballots in November. Sainz led an upbeat media briefing featuring Brian Moulton, HRC legal director, and Sarah Warbelow, HRC state legislative director.

For Californians, all eyes are on the Proposition 8 case that is on the docket for review by the U.S. Supreme Court on Sept. 24. Moulton and Sainz said that the high court would review the docket on Sept. 24, then announce the following day on which cases they would take up. It is possible that marriage-equality supporters will know on Sept. 25 whether the Supreme Court will review the Prop 8 case.

However, if the high court doesn’t make any mention of the Prop 8 case on Sept. 25, the next important date is Oct. 1, when the Supreme Court will announce what cases it won’t review. Even then, it is possible that the high court will not make any decision on Prop 8, putting the case in limbo for possible future action, such as the merging of several cases related to DOMA, the so-called Defense of Marriage Act that the Obama Administration and Justice Department believe are unconstitutional.

How the ballot measures are polling

Sainz said the four ballot measures about marriage equality were trending “our way.” Voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington state, according to current polls, are likely to support marriage equality. And Minnesota could make history as the first state where voters reject an effort to ban same-sex marriage via a state constitutional amendment.

The HRC officials were optimistic that the tide has turned on gay rights in the U.S., and Sainz cited the recent political conventions as examples.

Sainz pointed to the Democratic National Convention, and its embrace of marriage equality, as a prime example of sea change in public opinion and support. He called the DNC action, in which speaker after speaker talked about marriage equality and equal rights, as “incredibly significant.”

As far as the Republican National Convention, which was a swamp of anti-gay rhetoric against marriage equality and minority rights, Sainz said the GOP acted like it was “1812, not 2012.”

“The issue of marriage equality was intricately woven into speeches” every night of the DNC, Sainz said. “The measure of progress speaks volumes about the acceptance of LGBT issues into mainstream America.”

Prop 8 and several DOMA cases have been declared unconstitutional by lower courts, and now have landed at the Supreme Court. On the state level, Warbelow urged marriage-equality supporters to pay attention to cases in Illinois, New Jersey and Nevada that are challenging for the right to marry.

Additional reading

San Diego Gay & Lesbian News published a news analysis on Aug. 28 that asked the question: “Is 2012 shaping up as the year of marriage equality?” In that news analysis, SDGLN looked at the marriage issue on a global scale and found the same trends that HRC did.

Chris Johnson of the Washington Blade has a lengthy look at "High stakes in marriage cases awaiting Supreme Court" that is worth reading. Also consider Johnson's piece on "White House staying out of Proposition 8 litigation."

Ken Williams is Editor in Chief of SDGLN. He can be reached at ken@sdgln.com, @KenSanDiego on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to (877) 727-5446, ext. 713.