The legalization of gay marriage in three states this election may lead other states to consider it, too.
Four states had amendments on the ballot related to gay marriage. In three states — Maine, Maryland and Washington — voters approved the legalization of gay marriage. In Minnesota, an amendment passed that makes it illegal to ban gay marriage.
Nine states — Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and Washington — have now legalized gay marriage, according to the National Conference of State Legislature website. The data also shows five states allow civil unions, which are different from gay marriages in that they are only recognized in some states, and couples do not receive a number of protections and rights that civil marriages receive such as tax relief and emergency medical decision-making power.
Illinois allowed civil unions after the General Assembly passed the Civil Union Act in December 2010, which established legal protections for same-sex couples across the state. Gov. Pat Quinn signed the legislation into law in January 2011.
Wendy Weinhold, coordinator of LGBT*Q Resource Center, said every election is important for the LGBT community. She said Illinois allows civil unions so that same-sex couples can be recognized.
“Civil unions are important because LGBT people can be recognized as people who can love,” Weinhold said.
She said gay marriage is not just about the institution of marriage but also to have the same taxation rights as any other heterosexual couple.
“Marriage is a privilege that favors heterosexuals,” Weinhold said.
She said she is hopeful that the LGBT community will be more accepted in the future.
“I am positive that in the next 25 or so years, it will be a much better environment,” Weinhold said.
She said a large amount of attention and money goes toward LGBT equality, and the sooner it is legalized, the sooner attention can be focused on issues that have been overlooked such as equality between those of different class, ability and gender.
David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, said the election was a definite success for the younger generation and Democrats.
“I think the gay community has a lot to celebrate, not only with the electoral votes but with the change of public attitude,” he said.
A poll conducted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute that was published in September asked Illinoisans to take a position on the legal rights of gay and lesbian couples. The results state 43.6 percent said they think gay or lesbian couples should be allowed to marry; 31.8 percent think couples should be allowed to form civil unions; and 20.2 percent think there should be no legal recognition of relationships between gay or lesbian couples. The remaining 4.4 percent said they do not know where they stand.
Yepsen said the success of gay marriage in the election was largely caused by a new attitude that younger Americans have. He said younger Americans are more comfortable with previously controversial social issues.
“I think public opinion is shifting in America,” Yepsen said.
Yepsen said the gay marriage issue would not end with the election.
“This could all happen really soon, and I think the election spurred it on,” Yepsen said. “This issue will make its way to the Supreme Court.”
He said SIU and Illinois are generally supportive of gay marriage.
“I think it is pretty clear that gay marriage is a continuing issue in Illinois due to the large Democrat population,” Yepsen said.
Cody Clark, vice president of the Saluki Rainbow Network and a junior from Mount Vernon studying art, said most people he has met at SIU have supported gay rights. He said he does think the campus could be more supportive of the gay community through more LGBT events.
Clark said he was pleased with the results of the election.
“I was honestly surprised at all the states that legalized gay marriage,” Clark said.
He said he also thinks gay marriage will be legalized nationally in the future.
“I think eventually it will because throughout the years the states have made new legislature that make it easier for the LGBT community,” Clark said. “People will change in the future to be more inclusive.”