In 2012, equality for the LGBT community didn't just rain, it poured. There is little doubt that 2013 will be another, possibly greater, watershed year for marriage equality. 2012 brought about an endorsement by President Obama and Vice-President Biden, the Democratic National Committee, and the NAACP. Maryland, Maine, and Washington are now issuing same-sex marriage licenses.
The race is on in 2013 between Rhode Island and Illinois to see who will be the 10th state to approve same-sex marriage. Delaware, Minnesota, and Hawaii are likely not far behind. Internationally, France, the UK, and Uruguay are attempting to legalize marriage equality this year. The U.S. Supreme Court has taken up not one but two same-sex marriage cases in 2013 - one regarding California's Proposition 8 and the other regarding the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act."
As an LGBT advocate who follows these issues rather closely, I was not surprised that Democrats said "I Do" to equality, not surprised that the President evolved his position, pleasantly surprised (but not shocked) that voters approved same sex marriage in three states, and really not surprised that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear these cases.
However, I was surprised at recent polling that has the potential to reshape the landscape of the debate in Pennsylvania for years to come.
According to a poll conducted Jan. 4-6, 2013 by Public Policy Polling (PPP), a majority (53%) of Republicans in Pennsylvania support either marriage or civil unions for same-sex couples. This is a huge departure from previous polls demonstrating majority opposition to any form of relationship recognition for same-sex couples among Pennsylvania Republicans. It's a huge departure from the views of elected Republican leaders in Pennsylvania, including Senator Toomey, Governor Corbett, and most elected legislators in the Republican caucus. To be sure, the times are changing, and all of the progress from recent years has certainly contributed to this shift.
Public opinion is shifting rapidly on marriage equality. What was taboo for even Democrats to support in 2004 now makes the few Democratic holdouts--such as Senator Bob Casey Jr.-- appear anachronistically conservative. A decade ago, President Bush attempted to amend the U.S. Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage, now numerous conservative leaders are fully supportive of marriage equality -- including fmr. Vice President Dick Cheney, fmr. First Lady Laura Bush, fmr. RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Meghan McCain, and many others.
The reality is that marriage equality will not become the law in Pennsylvania without bipartisan support. This shift in public opinion is an excellent launch pad for future legislative support among Republicans. It's a safe bet that the trend will only continue, that the same poll next year will demonstrate even more support among Republicans for LGBT relationship recognition. Those of us who already support marriage equality can hold out hope that our legislators will join us in fighting for an equal Pennsylvania.
Adrian Shanker, of Bethlehem, is President of Equality Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/AdrianShanker