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The Times They Are a Changin'

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The issue of gay rights and equality has been slowly picking up steam over many years in the US.

From hiding in the shadows, to Stonewall, to many individual pronouncements to families and friends, to ground-breaking films like Kramer vs Kramer and Philadelphia, the civil rights of Americans who are gay and lesbian have slowly gained acceptance.

Even our most conservative politicians are not totally immune since they too have daughters, sons and friends who are gay or lesbian and may in fact, be gay or lesbian themselves!

The opposition in the US is based on the argument over whether being gay is a result or nature or nurture.

Perhaps one of the most compelling wins for the gay community was the combination of two of the greatest US litigators who joined forces to argue for the civil rights of gays citizens - David Boies and Ted Olson.

These two men are the Democratic and Republican champions of their party's political views.

They can be remembered for taking opposing sides in the US Supreme Court decision Bush vs Gore which decided the outcome of the 2000 Presidential Election.

This fight is far from over.

The conservative right is still fiercely opposed to acknowledging that one is actually born gay or lesbian.

They insist this is a choice of lifestyle which some even believe can be 'reversed' by counselling... another topic!

However, this opposition is literally greying, fading and dying away.

Generation wise there is a huge difference in attitudes, younger people from all parts of the country and from both political parties have a much more accepting attitude when it comes to their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

Even the most conservative Republicans recognize anti-gay and lesbian rhetoric is simply not a long term winner.

Many young Republicans including 'Log Cabin Republicans' (a gay and lesbian Republican affiliated group) are pushing their party from within to drop their intolerant views.

Unlike this week's vote in the UK parliament, the recognition of gay marriage is not something that would be likely to originate in the US Congress.

Especially in the Republican dominated House of Representatives.

That being said, we have had several openly gay and lesbian Members of Congress including Rep. Barney Frank from Massachusetts and in this past election the first openly gay Senator Tammy Baldwin was elected to represent the State of Wisconsin.

The ground swell of support for the LGBT community and specifically for gay marriage and legally recognized partnerships has built slowly across the US on a state by state basis.

There are now about 10 states which recognize gay marriage and many others which grant rights similar to those of a marriage in civil unions.

This number continues to grow. The map of the states that have bans on same sex marriage looks striking similar to the shrinking numbers of wins by the Republicans in the last Presidential Election.

Couples who marry in a state where gay marriage is legal and move to a state where it is not have already brought legal cases trying to force their new home to recognize their rights.

Since the US has complete freedom of movement, cases like these are creating a constitutional crisis where the Supreme Court must step in and address the issue once and for all.

This is a case made to order for the Boies and Olson team - and my money is on them to win.

This may be the year that marks a real turning point.

In his second Inaugural address President Obama gave public voice and acknowledgment to the long struggle of gays and lesbians by acknowledging Stonewall along with other well known civil rights events.

President Obama and his administration have done more for gay and lesbian rights than anyone expected - he has repealed the 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' policy in the US military - now allowing gay and lesbian service members to serve openly without fear of discharge for simply being who they are.

Just this week exiting secretary of defense Leon Panetta announced a major military policy change - the US military will now extend some benefits to partners of gay and lesbian service members.

And in a TV interview just before the Super Bowl, President Obama announced his support for access to the Boy Scouts of America for gay young people and even for their lesbian moms as den mothers!

One things seems clear, that despite the fears of some and their desperate desire to hold back the hands of time, gay and lesbian civil rights will be fully recognized just as the civil rights of all African American citizens were in the last century.

After much struggle and pain comes enlightenment and acceptance. It is simply a matter of time.

Bob Dylan had it right... the times they are indeed a changin'.

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