Gay Marriage: What New Zealand Can Teach the U.S. About Marriage Equality

Legalization of same-sex marriage has become an unstoppable force in the last few days when FranceUruguay and New Zealand passed same-sex marriage bills in their congresses. The results have undoubtedly boosted confidence among marriage equality advocates worldwide, especially in the United States, while we are also waiting for the Supreme Court's ruling regarding California's Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). We all must have the same question in mind: Will we be the next?

Unlike many of the countries that have won the freedom to marry, the United States has a more complicated legal system when it comes to marriage. While most of these countries' national governments issue marriage licenses, that power belongs to state governments in the United States. In other words, we have to win the support of most of the state governments in order to legalize same-sex marriage at the federal level. This makes universalizing freedom to marry nationwide much more complex in the United States.

So how far are we from the finish line? To Evan Wolfson, President of Freedom to Marry, the United States is moving in the right direction. With the recent examples in other countries, we are seeing a growing understanding and support toward same-sex marriage worldwide and more and more countries are embracing the value of equality and liberty that democracy believes in.

"I think this matters to elected officials, judges and Supreme Court justices," said Wolfson. "They would start to think deeply about the U.S. Constitution and its guarantees."

Wolfson also points out that these examples show that freedom to marry isn't harmful and dangerous. People are able to see the positive impact that same-sex marriage exercises in those countries. One significant work for the United States is to continue the work that we have been doing.

"The fact that we are able to win in countries like France, which is heavily Roman Catholic, and Argentina, which comes out of dictatorship, show that we can win," said Wolfson.

But what should we keep doing to make it happen? John Lewis, the Legal Director at Marriage Equality USA, thinks that every United States citizen should believe that freedom to marry should be equally applied to everyone. We also need to keep speaking up for those who are directly affected by the limited freedom to marry.

In addition, Wolfson says that talks about family, love connectedness and value of fairness should be emphasized. The key to win this battle is to bring in those who weren't used to support freedom to marry and make the case for conservative groups rather than relying solely on one party.

"We should grow the support beyond those who used to support it and to others who probably aren't agreed to everything," said Wolfson. "The key is to chain them together and make freedom to marry not something about parties."

While those strategies work in other countries, the United States should also try to make it work here. We start the battle roughly so we need to work hard to make it happen. Like both Wolfson and Lewis point out, we have the momentum and winning strategies, but that's not enough for winning this battle. It takes time and the continuous effort from all sides to make it happen. 

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William Yang

William Yang is a writer, activist and blogger currently residing in Philadelphia while finishing his Master of Journalism degree at Temple University. He enjoys writing about human rights, equality and social welfare issues. While he's not writing, photography becomes another way for him to tell stories.

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