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The New Republic’s Campaign for Marriage Equality


The New Republic’s Campaign
for Marriage Equality

On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires states to license a marriage between people of the same sex. In other words: Gay marriage is now legal everywhere in America.

It’s become almost a cliché: “It happened so fast!” Indeed, in many respects, the shift has been sudden. Barely three years ago Vice President Joe Biden let slip his support for gay marriage, prompting President Barack Obama to endorse it a few days later. At that time, same-sex marriage was banned in two-thirds of U.S. states; that was still true of a majority of states at this time last year.

But the recent suddeness of marriage equality can not eclipse the hard-fought efforts of this decades-long civil rights struggle. The New Republic, led by the eloquently pugnacious Andrew Sullivan, first put the case for gay marriage on its cover in 1989, and the magazine has been accelerating the debate ever since.

August 28, 1989 Here Comes the Groom
Andrew Sullivan

“The argument that gay marriage would subtly undermine the unique legitimacy of straight marriage is based upon a fallacy. . . . Gay marriage could only delegitimize straight marriage if it were a real alternative to it, and this is clearly not true. . . . Gay marriage . . . is not, in short, a denial of family values. It’s an extension of them.”

May 10, 1993 The Politics of Homosexuality
Andrew Sullivan

“Even when [gay] relationships become essentially the same—or even stronger—than straight relationships, they are never accorded the dignity of actual equality. Husbands remain ‘friends’; wives remain ‘partners.’ The very language sends a powerful signal of fault, a silent assumption of internal disorder or insufficiency.”

May 5, 1993

Hawaii’s Supreme Court is the first to rule that same-sex marriage bans may violate the right to equal protection.


A number of states pass “defense of marriage” laws, ostensibly attempting to prohibit gay marriage before it begins.

May 6, 1996 Liberation
Andrew Sullivan

“The denial of marriage . . . is the most profound statement our society can make that homosexual love is simply not as good as heterosexual love; that gay lives and commitments and hopes are simply worth less. It cuts gay people off not merely from civic respect, but from the rituals and history of their own families and friends. It erases them not merely as citizens, but as human beings. ”

June 17, 1996 Three’s a Crowd
Andrew Sullivan

“The truth is, marriage has changed many, many times over the centuries. Each change should be judged on its own terms, not as part of some seamless process of alleged disintegration.”

September 21, 1996

President Bill Clinton signs the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) “to define and protect the institution of marriage,” prohibiting federal recognition of same-sex marriage.

January 10, 2000 Separate but Equal?
The Editors

“There is in fact no argument for a domestic-partnership compromise except that the maintenance of stigma is an important social value—that if homosexuals are finally allowed on the marriage bus, they should still be required to sit in the back.”

April 26, 2000

Vermont is the first state to create a protected equal, but separate, status for same-sex couples.

May 8, 2000 State of the Union
Andrew Sullivan

“‘Separate but equal’ was a failed and pernicious policy with regard to race; it will be a failed and pernicious policy with regard to sexual orientation. . . . These half-measures, far from undermining the case for complete equality, only sharpen it. For there are no arguments for civil union that do not apply equally to marriage.”

June 26, 2003

The Supreme Court strikes down all state sodomy laws.

November 18, 2003

Massachusetts’s Supreme Court orders the state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples by May 17 of the following year.

December 22, 2003 Wedding Bell Blues
Richard A. Posner

“I am dubious about interpreting the Constitution to authorize the Supreme Court to make discretionary moral judgments that offend dominant public opinion. Nothing in the Constitution or its history suggests a constitutional right to homosexual marriage.”

May 3, 2004 Yawn
Jeffrey Rosen

“If a court accepted the invitation, it would have the effect of nationalizing the gay marriage debate—raising the possibility that all state bans on gay marriage are unconstitutional and making it harder for the U.S. Supreme Court to avoid resolving the issue for the entire nation. It’s hard to say whether state or federal courts will be rash enough to take this step. But, ultimately, any attempt to fight the gay marriage battle this way is unlikely to amount to much.”

December 6, 2006

Mary Cheney, the openly gay daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney, confirms that she will be having a baby with her partner.

December 25, 2006 Mary’s Baby and the Right
Andrew Sullivan

“On Mary Cheney, they are forced to take a stand. But any stand either attacks the base of the party or attacks someone they know and love. So they have no alternative but to stand very still, say nothing, and hope that someone changes the subject. It is as close to intellectual and moral bankruptcy as one can imagine.”

July 15, 2009 Make the Ask
The Editors

“Nothing is more infuriating than Obama’s refusal to act on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. . . . Obama is not afraid to push health care reform, send more troops to Afghanistan, or stand by his stimulus program—nor should he be. But why, when it comes to the far less controversial cause of gays serving in the military, is he apparently willing to punt?”

May 9, 2012

President Obama openly endorses gay marriage, becoming the first sitting president to do so.

In an interview with Robin Roberts of ABC's Good Morning America, President Obama expressed his support for gay marriage.
Pete Souza/White House Photo via Getty Images
May 21, 2012 Why the Law Will Eventually ‘Evolve’ on Gay Marriage Just Like Obama Did
Jeffrey Rosen

“Psychological research has shown that the reasons Obama cited as having changed his mind—in particular, conversations with his wife and daughters about their gay friends—is precisely what has persuaded a bare majority of Americans to embrace gay marriage in recent years.”

June 26, 2013

The Supreme Court rules that doma’s prohibition of federal recognition of same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

June 28, 2013 No Gays Left Behind
Nathaniel Frank

“A movement that, for understandable reasons, has come to be associated almost wholly with the fight for marriage equality now has a lot of private soul-searching and public dialoguing ahead. . . . [I]t’s imperative to remember just how broad the movement is and how diverse the population, and its needs, really are.”

March 5, 2014

Pope Francis suggests, in an interview with an Italian newspaper, that some same-sex civil unions may be considered acceptable by the Catholic Church.

October 12, 2014 How Obama Became the Gay-Rights President
Marc Solomon

“About two-thirds of the way through the inaugural address, the president proclaimed, ‘We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths—that all of us are created equal—is the star that guides us still, just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall.’ I had to pinch myself. For this president—in his inaugural address, on Martin Luther King Day—to speak of our struggle for equality as central to the great American trajectory of civil rights struggles was extraordinary.”

June 23, 2015 Future Queer
Alexander Chee

“My hope is that marriage equality queers marriage, rather than straightening queers—that we reinvent it and keep reinventing it, and sexuality is finally acknowledged as having no inherent moral value except, perhaps, when it is ignored. But my generation never planned for this. Many of the men and women who might have showed us how to grow old while being queer are dead, and most of us, well, we didn’t think we’d live this long, either. One of the most punk rock things I can think of now for me and my friends from ACT UP, is for us to grow old with the people we love, however we choose to do it. Getting to be an old queer is our next revolution.”

The Vanishing Terrain of Gay America
Michael Lindenberger

“The importance of the gay marriage fight lies in its ability to force Americans to abandon the old hateful division of the world into straight and gay. I was confident, whatever the court decided, that the division would soon fade away. It won’t be missed. But even as we embrace this new and better world, an important question remains: What of the old one is worth saving?”

June 26, 2015

The Supreme Court rules 5-4 that gay couples have a constitutional right to marry.

June 26, 2015 It Is Accomplished
Andrew Sullivan

“I never believed this would happen in my lifetime when I wrote my first several TNR essays and then my book, Virtually Normal, and then the anthology and the hundreds and hundreds of talks and lectures and talk-shows and call-ins and blog-posts and articles in the 1990s and 2000s.... I never for a millisecond thought I would live to be married myself. Or that it would be possible for everyone, everyone in America. But it has come to pass. All of it. In one fell, final swoop.”