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2013: The Year Marriage Equality Won

Supreme Court DOMA

The past year has, in almost uncountable ways, been the most significant year to date for the marriage equality movement since it began moving into the mainstream nearly twenty years ago when Hawaii’s Supreme Court issued a ruling that ultimately led to a movement that was supported by the right and the left to pass laws banning same-sex marriage at the state level, and to the passage of the Defense of Marriage Act by a bipartisan majority in Congress in the mid-1990s. Indeed, the forces arrayed against same-sex marriage had a virtually unbroken success rate that stretched over almost twenty years and ending with the referendum in the Spring of 2012 in North Carolina that placed a bar against same-sex marriage in that state’s Constitution. During that period, of course, there were small victories for the marriage equality movement in states like Massachusetts, Iowa, and elsewhere, but for the most part the 20 years between that original decision from the Hawaiian Supreme Court and the North Carolina referendum were years of victory for the proponents of so-called “traditional marriage,” and disappointment for those who supported the idea that gender should not be an issue if two consenting adults wanted to claim the status, and the legal benefits, of being married.

After North Carolina, though, things clearly began to change. First of all, mostly in response to a seemingly off-hand remark by Vice-President Biden, President Obama acknowledged publicly something that most people had assumed for some time, namely the fact that he supported the legalization of same-sex marriage. Some subsequent reports have indicated that Obama, or at least some of his closest advisers, were privately upset that the Vice-President had seemingly backed the President into a corner but, in the end, it was obvious that Obama’s announcement did not hurt him publicly. Indeed, by the point he made these statements in April 2012, polling was already starting to indicate that the American public had already crossed the tipping point, with polling showing that a slight majority supported same-sex marriage. In and of itself, that alone was a remarkable transformation considering that less than 15 years earlier, the vast majority of the public opposed the idea.

Within seven months of President Obama’s statement, the tide would begin to turn. In the 2012 elections, three states, Washington, Maryland, and Maine, voted in favor of  referendum questions approving same-sex marriage while a fourth state, Minnesota, became the first state where voters rejected a referendum that would have added an Amendment barring same-sex marriage to their state’s Constitution. In the early months of 2013, legislatures in Rhode Island, Delaware, and Minnesota all approved bills authorizing same-sex marriage that were signed into law by their respective Governors. In June, the Supreme Court let stand a lower Court ruling striking down California’s Proposition 8, thus legalizing same-sex marriage in the nation’s largest state, and, in United States v. Windsor, struck down Section Three of the Defense Of Marriage Act, and thus requiring the Federal Government to officially recognize all valid marriages between gay and lesbian couples throughout the nation.

Windsor in turn led to a series of quick legal developments that is likely only the beginning of its legal impact. To start with, in September a trial court judge in New Jersey determined that the Supreme Court’s ruling in that case required the Garden State to recognize same-sex marriage because the state’s laws limiting gay couples to just civil unions did not comply with previous rulings by he state’s Supreme Court that New Jersey law must recognize full equality for same-sex and opposite sex couples. That ruling became a fait accompli when a ruling on a request for a stay made it obvious that the state would lose on appeal led Governor Christie to order that the state drop its appeal of the trial court ruling. Just last month, legislatures in Hawaii and Illinois passed laws legalizing same-sex marriage. Then, within just the past ten days, Courts in New Mexico and Utah have ruled that same-sex marriage must be recognized within their jurisdiction. At this point, then, 18 states, plus the District of Columbia and several Indian Tribes, have recognized same-sex marriage. that accounts for ~39% of the U.S. population. If you include the states that grant civil union rights to gay couples, it rises to ~44% of the population. After just 15 years, most of which was marked by a record of success for the “traditional marriage” crowd, that’s an amazing record of success.

Looking forward, Reid Wilson notes at The Washington Post that there is the distinct possibility that we may see considerable progress on the legal front:

Judges in 17 states are considering at least 31 cases seeking to allow gays and lesbians to marry, according to a private count kept by one LGBT group and shared with The Washington Post. Same-sex couples in states ranging from deep red Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi to purple North Carolina, Nevada and Virginia are suing, many citing this year’s Supreme Court decisions, which other federal judges have recognized.

Political reality has forced same-sex marriage backers out of state legislatures and into federal court. After two years of winning legislative and electoral battles, primarily in states controlled by Democratic legislatures and governors, same-sex marriage supporters have only one more chance to change a state’s laws on the ballot — in Oregon, where a measure to legalize marriage will almost certainly be on the ballot next November.

There is also the possibility of ballot measures related to same-sex marriage next year in states ranging from Oregon to Colorado to Indiana. None of these efforts are guaranteed to succeed. Indeed, there is likely to be a set back or two coming. The end result, though, seems indisputably clear. At some point, the majority of the population of the United States will live in states where same-sex marriage is legal. Soon after that, it will expand further until, at some point, every state in the Union will recognize marriage equality, even the deepest red states like Alabama and Mississippi. It may take time for people in some parts of the country are fully comfortable with the idea, but that too will come in time. At that point, the American people will look back and wonder what the heck took so long. They’ll also most likely see 2013 as the year the tide finally turned and the outcome became inevitable.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    You know how in math class some kids get the concept immediately, and some take a while to catch on, and others just never do get it? (That would be me in math.)

    There’s an elapsed time between when smart people get something and when regular people eventually get it. The slow kids may never get. Right now on gay marriage the regular students, neither super smart nor slow, are getting it. And that’s the ball game.

    Even some of the brighter Republicans are getting it. The others will lash out, make some noise, but eventually subside.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 5

  2. C. Clavin says:

    Mr. Duck and his supporters and defenders not withstanding…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  3. Mark Ivey says:

    The gays are taking over!! And it´s gonna be FABULOUS

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  4. jd says:

    Social change occurs in two steps. First you change the law. Then you wait for old people to die.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  5. JKB says:

    @C. Clavin: Mr. Duck and his supporters and defenders not withstanding…

    He was against homosexual sex. If anecdotes of marriage are correct, one of the most effective was to cut back the sex is through marriage, followed by kids.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  6. CSK says:

    The last Republican candidate for the senate from Massachusetts was not only in favor of same-sex marriage, he was quite vocal in his support for it. He lost the election, but not because of this issue. Massachusetts was, of course, the first state to legalize gay marriage, and has had several openly gay politicians on both sides of the political aisle for some time.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  7. Sejanus says:

    @michael reynolds: I suspect that there are many students of average intelligence who have gotten the right answer by now, but are afraid to speak it in class due to peer pressure from dumber students they hang out with.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  8. Stonetools says:

    I think that DADT repeal also played a role. Once people understood that gays wanted to fight for their country, it became obscene to deny them equal rights in other areas. And of course Obama was responsible for DADT repeal.
    So maybe Obama isn’t one of the worst Presidents after all, eh, Doug?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

  9. DrDaveT says:

    @jd:

    First you change the law. Then you wait for old people to die.

    Just like physics, then.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  10. steve s says:

    A funny line by Planck, but not really true, w/r/t Physics. Einstein didn’t have to wait 50 years for Millikan to die, for instance.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. DrDaveT says:

    @steve s:

    Einstein didn’t have to wait 50 years for Millikan to die

    I didn’t realize Millikan was ever a quantum mechanics denier.

    (Odd side note: it’s almost impossible to Google info on the history of quantum mechanics’s acceptance by physicists, due to the incredible number of civilian wackos out there trying to either use QM to buttress their religious beliefs or deny that QM can be true.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  12. crusader says:

    Errm, a huge problem in all this is the naive, ideological assumption that equality is a good. Mr. Alex Kurtagić compellingly argues that equality is The Moral Scourge of Modernity.

    http://alexkurtagicofficial.blogspot.com/2012/04/equality-as-evil-moral-scourge-of.html

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 8

  13. crusader says:

    @michael reynolds: Homosexuality is degeneracy. The only reason it seems otherwise to the sheepish majority is 24/7 propaganda in favor of persersity imposed by the organized degenerates in the corporate media.

    The passion for unnatural equality (particularly between marriage and sodomy) is The Moral Scourge of Modernity. Homosexuality remains degeneracy even if the media has convinced almost everyone that it is not an abomination but an honorable lifestyle.

    http://alexkurtagicofficial.blogspot.com/2012/04/equality-as-evil-moral-scourge-of.html

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 11

  14. C. Clavin says:

    @crusader:
    He also says equality is evil.
    Which would make the Declaration malevolent.
    I am pretty sure Obamacare will cover the professional help you require.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. Pinky says:

    @crusader: I checked out the article. Crazy. It’s possible to be sane and opposed to gay marraige, but that article is poorly-reasoned and way, way outside the norms of Western thought.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  16. grumpy realist says:

    Surprising how all those who want an unequal society automatically assume that they’ll be at the top ordering other people around…

    Pasty white upper-middle-class male who fails to appreciate how much privilege he’s already benefited from and who assumes that the “equilibrium” situation will continue to be tilted in his favour. And then he thumps his chest and talks about how he should be on top because, after all, he DESERVES it.

    (I really wish that all of Alex Kurtagic’s ilk would keep quiet until they had several years experience of McJob work while taking care of three kids.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  17. Pinky says:

    Crusader – I just looked around Kurtagic’s site some more, and I was far too kind when I called it crazy. It’s screaming evil racist crazy. It’s the kind of garbage that most of the lefties on this site picture when someone says the phrase “right wing”. It looks like he’s one of those guys who got booted off fringe right wing sites for being too fringey.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  18. David in KC says:

    I’m still waiting for someone to come up with an argument against same sex marriage that is not grounded in religious objections or the “eww, Icky” line of thinking.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  19. Franklin says:

    @Pinky: Thank you for visiting the site for us. I refuse to try it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  20. John425 says:

    Coming soon: Open marriages where phylum, class and species restrictions are prohibited.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  21. Pinky says:

    @Franklin: Picture a transcript of a poli sci class with the word “white” inserted at random.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  22. michael reynolds says:

    @crusader:

    Dude, we don’t really care what crazy nonsense you have to offer. We’ve won this. You’ve lost. Now we just wait for you to die off.

    But no hurry. Take your time. The ash heap of history will wait patiently for you.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  23. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @crusader:

    Helpful hint: crap like that is why you are losing the culture war.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  24. Pinky says:

    @michael reynolds: Don’t be dumb and obnoxious and dumb. Nothing in the culture wars is ever over.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  25. Grewgills says:

    @crusader:

    The passion for unnatural equality (particularly between marriage and sodomy) is The Moral Scourge of Modernity.

    Everybody loves bjs

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  26. Grewgills says:

    @John425:
    What part of consenting adults do you fail to understand?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  27. An Interested Party says:

    Open marriages where phylum, class and species restrictions are prohibited.

    Idiotic…explain how SSM will lead to the legalization of bestiality…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  28. Pinky says:

    @An Interested Party: The further we move away from the norm of marriage for the procreation and raising of children, the easier each step becomes. Take the transition from acceptance of contraception to the acceptance of abortion. The theory was that the first could lead to the second, but that was pooh-poohed at the time. But look at what happened to public opinion. It’s turned out exactly as the theory predicted. Even the ruling that overturned contraception law was cited in the ruling that overturned abortion law.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  29. Ana says:

    @ Cursader
    Well, what the heck do you make of intersex persons?

    There is a condition called CAIS, which is one among many intersex conditions, in which a genetically male (xy) baby lacks androgen receptors and develops as a female. She has female external genetalia and develops breasts during puberty, yet, her internal gonads are not ovaries, but testes. She has no uterus or fallopian tubes. She is infertile. In most cases she will identify as female and be attracted to men.

    If God made you, He made her as well
    Who is she allowed to marry?

    Or do you really not know anything about what God designs, sanctions, and why?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  30. Grewgills says:

    @Pinky:

    The further we move away from the norm of marriage for the procreation and raising of children, the easier each step becomes.

    1) That has only been the norm for a relatively short time. It became the Christian norm because of Roman law set to limit the number of new Roman citizens. Plural marriage was entirely acceptable by Jews and ProtoChristians. Jews let go of plural marriage in, if I remember correctly, the 10th century a few hundred years after the Romans made that decision for Christians.
    2) What part of consenting adults are you not understanding?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  31. Pinky says:

    @Grewgills: The idea that any act performed by consenting adults is acceptable is a far better example of a historical blip.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  32. Grewgills says:

    @Pinky:
    Neither of them qualify for a classical historical norm. Pretending one does and the other is an aberration is the problem.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  33. It does have a really amazing service and product. Good job!

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  34. Pinky says:

    Grew – Do you think it should be illegal for a person to give a bj to a dog? Everybody loves ‘em, right? You’re not harming the animal.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  35. Grewgills says:

    @Pinky:
    Is a dog a consenting adult?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  36. Pinky says:

    @Grewgills: What about an inflatable doll, then? It’s not a consenting adult either. I mean, you’ve got to take the same stand on both an inflatable doll and an animal that’s not getting hurt, right? How about this: school districts are always trying to raise money. We could set up a room with a one-way mirror and pedophiles could go in there to masturbate while they watch a kindergarten class. The cleanup would be a little gross, but a school that had that setup could raise a lot of money. No one but consenting adults, so what’s the problem?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  37. Grewgills says:

    @Pinky:
    Seriously?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  38. Pinky says:

    Well, yeah, I mean, not to go too Dennis Miller on you, but you’re the one with the one-size-fits-all two-word theory for explaining what’s right and wrong about human sexual interaction, which is the most bizarre part of human nature imaginable, and wants to rewrite the moral and legal code that we’ve built up since we were apes throwing bones at an obelisk in a bad science fiction movie, so yeah, before we do that, I wanna see a dog penis in your mouth or hear a good reason why there isn’t one.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  39. Grewgills says:

    @Pinky:

    you’re the one with the one-size-fits-all two-word theory for explaining what’s right and wrong about human sexual interaction, which is the most bizarre part of human nature imaginable

    The vast majority of human sexuality is observable in other apes. We do plenty of things more bizarre.

    wants to rewrite the moral and legal code that we’ve built up since we were apes

    The moral code comes rather late in that story and the legal one even later. What you are defending is a particular moral code built up over the last 1% or so of human existence.

    I wanna see a dog penis in your mouth or hear a good reason why there isn’t one.

    1) I don’t want it there, so I would not be a consenting adult in your fantasy scenario.
    2) Dogs are not consenting adults, so the dog would not be able to give informed consent in your fantasy scenario.
    3) Your fantasy scenario is the punchline to a bad joke, “How do you get a dog to quick hunting your leg?”

    In your previous pedophile scenario, the children are not able to give informed consent. Why is the idea of adults giving informed consent so difficult for you to understand?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  40. Pinky says:

    OK, no response, so let me put it differently. You apparently think that your code of conduct is superior to mine, so before I go changing mine I should at least find out what the merits are of yours. I assume that you believe that there’s no relation between the argument for gay marriage and the argument for bestiality. (I could be wrong.) But if your only standard is consent, is there anything in your understanding of sexual standards that would prevent your support of bestiality? Note that I’m not talking about your standards about animal cruelty. I’m asking if your standards of sexual activity can give me an argument against bestialty. If you can’t say that bestiality is wrong as a sexual act, then I’m going to find it hard to believe that your argument for gay marriage is completely disconnected to a future potential argument in favor of bestiality.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  41. Pinky says:

    Ah, so you did reply. The dreaded lag between comments. Still, a terrible argument.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  42. Grewgills says:

    @Pinky:

    But if your only standard is consent, is there anything in your understanding of sexual standards that would prevent your support of bestiality?

    The beast, or a child for that matter, is incapable of giving informed consent, so any sexual congress with one of them as a partner is rape. Consent matters. Why is that so difficult for you to understand?

    OK, no response, so let me put it differently.

    I do have a life outside of SIWOTI.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  43. Pinky says:

    @Grewgills: A dead body? A dead dog?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  44. Grewgills says:

    @Pinky:
    They are inanimate, like the doll you mentioned earlier, so marriage doesn’t apply.
    My you do have an active fantasy life.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  45. Pinky says:

    Now I see why we’re having problems. I thought we moved from talking about consensuality as the basis for marriage to consensuality as the basis for sexual mores. I’ll have to reread your comments and see what they mean. Please reread mine.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  46. Grewgills says:

    @Pinky:

    Now I see why we’re having problems. I thought we moved from talking about consensuality as the basis for marriage to consensuality as the basis for sexual mores.

    Consent is the basis for both. There are health and human safety issues with necrophilia as well as issues with living family and friends of the deceased. I, like most, find it repulsive, but I guess it is possible to do it in some cases without victimizing anyone.
    What is your non-theologically based moral objection?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  47. Pinky says:

    @Grewgills:

    What is your non-theologically based moral objection?

    I don’t know, let’s say natural law, or legal conservatism, or (as someone said upthread) the “just icky” standard. But I’m not trying to change anything. You are. You’re trying to introduce a new basis for our legal and cultural environment. It concerns me that your new standard can’t find a problem with necrophilia. I think that we can agree that that proscription is older than Christianity.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  48. Grewgills says:

    @Pinky:
    Just icky isn’t really a basis for ethics or morality.

    I do have health and human safety objections as well as rights of family and friends objections to the practice. Simply finding something ‘icky’ isn’t enough for me to say that someone else can’t do something.

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  49. An Interested Party says:

    You’re trying to introduce a new basis for our legal and cultural environment.

    The same argument could be used against anti-segregation laws, and yet we survived as a country after such laws were passed, just as we’ll survive once SSM is the law of the land…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  50. Pinky says:

    @An Interested Party: The same could be said for every change in law.

    Although actually, no, it couldn’t. What Grewgills is talking about here is a new standard, that would include not just gay marriage but a lot of other things. He’s talking about changing an underlying approach to society. And I’m not getting the impression that he’s thought through its iimplications. And isn’t this the cliched slippery slope argument being acted out in real life? He’s saying that his framework can’t find an objection to necrophilia. That’s not some right-wing yahoo’s straw man, it’s his actual position.

    And to carry that point further: your analogy implies that any change in marriage law is no different than anti-segregation laws, so how doesn’t that include bestiality or necrophilia?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  51. Grewgills says:

    @Pinky:

    He’s saying that his framework can’t find an objection to necrophilia.

    Twist all you like, that is not what I said. I have a clear health and human safety objection as well as objections based on the family and friends of the deceased. Those are why I think it is unethical and should be illegal. What I said, is it is conceivable that it could be done without victimization; that is rather different. You, by contrast, have come up with ‘it’s icky’ and ‘people historically opposed it’. Both of those rationales were used to deny interracial marriage. Neither are sufficient reason to make something illegal.

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  52. Pinky says:

    @Grewgills: You’re right; I put it clearer above, and I didn’t do so in my last comment. Your proposed legal and cultural framework for sexual behaviour can’t find a fault with necrophilia. Your proposed legal and cultural framework as a whole may have a problem with it.

    How about incestuous marriage? It’s icky, and traditionally proscribed, but those aren’t sufficient reasons for you. It passes the one standard you have in sexual matters, adult consensuality. So do you accept it?

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  53. Grewgills says:

    @Pinky:
    No, close incest is a health risk as is evidenced by many a royal family.
    We don’t have to look very far back in our own culture to see that it was not traditionally proscribed. Pretty much all of the royal houses in Europe not so very long ago were concerned about keeping bloodlines ‘pure’ and incest was more rampant than in Appalachia. Try again.

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  54. grumpy realist says:

    @Pinky: The same argument “but it’s traditional!” has also been used to deny women and blacks the right to vote, hold property, have credit in their own names, be able to attend college, be admitted to the Bar, etc., etc., and so forth.

    We’re not impressed with your argument.

    (Why is it that these arguments are invariably made by white men?)

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  55. grumpy realist says:

    And the “but SSM destroys the institution of marriage” argument was punctured and died as soon as the Catholic Church allowed a serial womanizer/adulterer/divorced clown like Newt Gingrich to get wed in Holy Matrimony to the harlot he was fornicating with behind the back of his wife.

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  56. Pinky says:

    @grumpy realist: see above

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  57. Grewgills says:

    @Pinky:

    Your proposed legal and cultural framework for sexual behaviour can’t find a fault with necrophilia. Your proposed legal and cultural framework as a whole may have a problem with it.

    The part is not meaningfully separated from the whole. Of course consent is not an issue when dealing with the inanimate. I have given reasons why I think necrophilia and close incest are not ethical. Thus far all you have come up with is “it’s icky” and “it’s not traditional”. Neither of those is sufficient grounds for making something illegal and in the case of incest “it’s not traditional” fails the historicity test. The two reasons you have given have been used to justify all manner of traditional abuses that have been partially enumerated in other comments in this thread. You need to find a better crutch.

    An example for you: should it be illegal to have sex with a lifelike model of an animal? It is rather icky and it is not at all traditional. Can you justify passing a law banning that behavior?

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  58. I admire your dedication. I would have given up and called for help!

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