By ATIMA OMARA-ALWALA
This weekend, members of the LGTBQQAA community will descend on Washington for America’s third-largest Pride festival. For many years, I have participated in the mission of obtaining equality for all Americans. Within the community’s string of letters, I’m very glad to be counted as the final “A” — the allies.
As the Pride Parade makes its way from Dupont Circle to Logan Circle, community members and supporters have a lot to celebrate. Twelve states and Washington, D.C. have now approved marriage equality. But, we are pushing for more.
As the Mr. & Miss Capital Pride pageant gets underway at Phase 1, a clerk at the Supreme Court, about four miles away, is, I hope, working on a majority opinion that will overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, thereby opening the federal rights and responsibilities of marriage to all couples.
Pride events across the country have a lot to celebrate but I think it is important to take a quick look back at how we have finally arrived at this place.
For those of us that love political polls and messaging documents, Third Way’s Director of the Social Policy & Politics Program, Lanae Erickson Hatalsky, has written one of the best message guidance ever seen. Based on their several polls, including Third Way’s July 2011 poll, they found that a commitment narrative is the most effective in transitioning the sentiment of voters to favor marriage equality.
A message carried by straight couples about gay couples wanting to join the institution of marriage has proven, in polling and in practice, to be the most effective argument to shift public opinion.
While I would like to claim all the credit for us “straight surrogates,” a huge driver of national support for marriage equality is our nation’s demographic shift. Older Americans are no longer with us and their hetero-normative views have not been passed down. As younger Americans that have grown up with gay and lesbian couples take to the ballot box, the pendulum is swinging to the right side of history.
As of March 2013, poll after poll showed a majority of Americans supporting marriage equality including 73 percent of Americans under the age of 30 per CBS. The ABC/Washington Post cut their data differently, finding extremely high support among younger Democrats 18-49 (73 percent) and Republicans 18-49 (52 percent).
However, the rest of the GOP has not joined younger Republicans, Democrats and independents in supporting equality. But, hope springs eternal and middle-aged and older Republicans both showed significant drops in opposition to marriage equality.
Still, as a proud member of the Democratic Party, I’m thrilled to state that a majority of Democrats in all age groups support marriage equality.
The LGTBQQAA have much to celebrate and I will certainly be lifting my brunch mimosa to the equality dozen this year but we still have a long way to go.
My gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in 37 states still cannot join the institution of marriage that my husband Clay and I joined last year. The Supreme Court still needs to overturn DOMA and 29 states still allow employers to fire LGTBQQA employees. I must sadly confess that I live in one, the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Virginia continues to be on the wrong side of history and the wrong side of the Potomac. I love the Commonwealth and it is my home but I have to say: “Seriously, Richmond, come on! Maryland and D.C. have equality can we maybe get our act together? We aren’t the cool kids anymore — we’re vintage, in a bad way.”
So this Pride weekend, let’s all celebrate our successes and get back to work on Monday!
Atima Omara-Alwala is vice president of the Young Democrats of America; she is running to be the organization’s first African-American president. She is a former board member of the LGBT Democrats of Virginia and lives in Arlington with her husband, Clay.