In the wake of the struggle surrounding DOMA and Proposition 8, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has definitely no lost any time in planning the next steps on the road to nationwide marriage equality. The ACLU is helping to spearhead cases in a total of 10 states with federal marriage claims that could make it to the Supreme Court in the coming months, seven of which were already moving down appeals pipelines before the recent rulings.
Those states include the very purple state of North Carolina, which could be a gateway to achieving equality in the Deep South. In addition, a variety of approaches at the state level through ballot campaigning, lobbying, working in tandem with coalition partners, state-level litigation, and harnessing “right-of-center voices” are being utilized. Efforts at the federal level will also be redoubled, since while the Prop 8 ruling somehow managed to dodge the topic of constitutionality, the impending 10 cases bring some relative certainty that the issue will become unavoidable.
This approach was alluded to in both of the court's recent rulings. The court felt as though the nation was not ready enough for a sweeping ruling, with only 13 states with marriage equality. If the ACLU can get half or more it could be enough leverage for the Supreme Court to make a sweeping ruling to dismantle section two of DOMA, which allows states to make the decision as to whether or not to acknowledge same-sex marriages.
The fourth prong of the ACLU’s most recent strategy, “Working with Right-of-Center Voices,” seems the broadest, least elaborated, and most novel direction the fight for marriage equality has taken. There is now a sudden break in the once-united Republican front against same-sex marriage, revealing at the national level a reality that many may or may not have expected: not all Republicans oppose marriage equality.
The inclusion of Republican strategists in constructive dialogue is the only course of action enumerated, in no great detail, that marks this development with any amount of significance. In a whirlwind haste to celebrate the stunning victories seen in the DOMA and Prop 8 rulings, representatives of the ACLU appear blind to the dissent among the once unanimous ranks of opposition to marriage equality. While the work that the ACLU has already done is important, the hope is that they can remain positive, and avoid overextending themselves. What happens if the ACLU hits a loss? They have taken a national lead on this issue. State-wide equality organizations need to be ready to utilize the ACLU’s tactics if marriage equality is to come to a state sooner rather than later.