It seemed like there was hardly a fight left to put up over gay marriage.
Rapidly, one by one, U.S. states began to lower their guard against same-sex unions: Connecticut, Vermont, Iowa, Maine and, most recently, New Hampshire, all in the first part of this year.
But then there was California.
Supporters of gay marriage in California and around the country were nearly positive such a progressive state would never deny a minority what they considered such a basic civil right.
Opponents were cowering in fear, expecting the same.
And then everyone was blindsided: Proposition 8, denying gays the right to marry in that state, was upheld.
“My sense is that the supporters of marriage equality in California were a bit complacent and that they were quite surprised,” said Lawrence Levine, a history professor at the University of the Pacific in Sacramento, Calif.
So what happens with those who are backed into a corner? They come out fighting. And what happens with those who come out on top? They defend their title to the end. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is the stage for the next great social war in American history: The battle over same-sex marriage.
Chicago natives Jack McClelland and his partner, Mike Termini, were hoping a victory for what McClelland termed “equal marriage” in California would serve as an example for their home state of Illinois to follow suit. But they are far from giving up.
“Sometimes it takes armed conflict ... sometimes it takes a Constitutional amendment ... sometimes a Supreme Court decision ... but we (Americans) do progress,” McClelland said.
“I think Prop 8 has energized not only the GLBT community, but I think it was a wake-up call for all Americans.”
Jean Somers, on the other hand, is watching with a smile on her face.
“(California) proves that hope is not lost for those who stand up for the family,” said Somers, who opposes gay marriage. “It looked like we didn’t have a chance anymore. But now our hope is restored.”
Already the Courage Campaign, an online advocacy group lobbying for legal gay marriage in California, is sending out letters to supporters telling them to get “ready to go!” for a 2010 battle at the polls.
“The debate over marriage equality is a major social battle, not unlike abortion, in that there is limited room for compromise,” Levine said. “The debate over same-sex marriage will continue for the foreseeable future with some victories and some setbacks.”