Two of the wealthiest Western democracies are now on the verge of having full marriage equality: Britain and France. The vote yesterday in the Commons – 400 – 175 – was echoed in the French National Assembly five days ago – 249 – 97. These were not close votes. Yes, they have divided the British right – with a slim majority of Tory MPs in Britain deciding not to follow David Cameron’s modernizing lead. But those dissenters should not be confused with the Christianist opposition in the GOP. In the UK, gay couples in civil partnerships have almost all the rights of heterosexual married partners, including immigration rights, which John McCain just dismissed as utterly unimportant to him. The Conservative opposition in Britain was nonetheless in favor of consigning gays to a separate but equal category of civil partnerships. The Christianist opposition in America is in favor of denying gay couples any civil recognition or protection of any kind.
The difference is that between a conservative party seeking to govern a country and a religious party seeking an eternal culture war. But when the Supreme Court comes to weigh the issue next month, I think the fast-growing support for equality in America, especially among the young, the growing number of states in the US with marriage equality, and the overwhelming embrace of equality by many countries both physically close – Canada and Mexico – and historically close – Britain and France – will have an effect. That’s why you can scour the conservative media today and find nary a mention of the epochal shifts in America’s oldest ally and its mother-country.
Justices do not rule in a cultural or historical vacuum. They could still vote narrowly and duck a big national resolution (as I hope they do). But Kennedy in particular could also see the emerging future in the West as a decisive factor, believe he has played a critical judicial role in this civil rights movement in America (as he has), and decide to go big. It’s his legacy. And it will last.
Image from Wiki. Very soon, Britain and France will be dark blue too.