WASHINGTON - It was a consequential week for gay rights, with Michigan and New Jersey moving toward allowing gay marriage through the judicial system. Victory in those states would increase the number of states allowing gay marriage to 16, along with the District of Colombia.
“Nationally, there’s this idea that we’re moving forward, like what happened in Michigan and New Jersey. But I don’t want to say it’s inevitable,” said Brant Miller, 27, a program associate for The DC Center for the LGBT Community.
George Takei, an openly gay actor best known for his role as Commander Sulu (later Captain) in Star Trek, spoke at the National Press Club Friday to advocate for marriage equality.
“I grew up as a child imprisoned in barbed wire,” Takei said, referring not to his sexual orientation but to his internment as a Japanese-American during World War II. He called the laws that prevent gay people from marrying “legalistic barbed wires with hard, sharp barbs of prejudice and ignorance.”
In Michigan, U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedman decided this week to allow a challenge to the Michigan Marriage Amendment, a voter referendum that passed in 2004. The Feb. 25 trial will determine if outlawing gay marriage serves a legitimate state interest.
Meanwhile, in New Jersey, the state Supreme Court voted Friday to allow gay marriages to proceed while Gov. Chris Christie appeals a lower court decision. The Garden State previously permitted civil unions, which the Republican governor supported. The New Jersey court also cited a lack of state interest in preventing the marriages from going forward.
“While marriage equality is something that many LGBT people want, there other issues that LGBT people face and address, like homelessness, transgendered people and the complex issues that LGBT people of color face. All of those things are important,” Miller said.
Takei, for his part, said he is hopeful for the future of gay rights because of young people.
“Especially young, straight couples, because they're going to be making the gay babies of tomorrow,” Takei said, to laughter from the lunch audience.
“And it is for them that we have to be change agents today.”
Reach reporter Gavin Stern at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-408-2735. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.