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Same Love: Macklemore Provides the Soundtrack for the Gay Rights Movement

In Culture, Music

Inspiring Change

Macklemore and Ray Lewis

Macklemore and Ray Lewis. Photo by John Keatly

While the song has been taken up by Prop. 8 opponents, it wouldn’t be the first time it’s been adopted as a social anthem. “Same Love” was actually released last summer to help support the passing of Referendum 74, a measure legalizing same sex marriage in the group’s home state of Washington. It passed this past November.

Macklemore has taken some credit for the victory and said in a video interview with Fuse that the track “became a record that really resonated with people on a personal, emotional level, and I think that when that happens, that has the potential to inspire change.”

In an online video for the ACLU of Washington, Macklemore admits that his initial draft for “Same Love” was actually much different. The song originally depicted the story of a gay teen who was bullied to the point of suicide. When he brought the lyrics to his partner, Lewis suggested that Macklemore take a more personal route, resulting in the version we now know.

Still, the song is not without detractors. Racilicious, a blog that examines the intersection of race and pop culture, ran one of the most critical responses to “Same Love” in early March. Writer Hel Gebreamlak argued that Macklemore’s popularity is taking opportunity away from LGBT artists of color more qualified to speak on marriage equality.

As he concludes, “The success of ‘Same Love’ is largely due at least in part to white audiences being more receptive to white straight men talking about oppression than oppressed people, as well as the comfort of being able to remove themselves from misogyny and homophobia because the oppression at hand is the fault of black people in hip-hop.”

“I’m personally OK that [the song] came from a non-LGBT artist because of the current audience that [the group] reaches out to,” counters Herras. “We can’t do everything for ourselves, and sometimes it’s OK to let an ‘outsider’ take the wheel for a minute or two.”

Despite the mild controversy the song has encountered, it couldn’t have arrived on radio at a better time in California. The Supreme Court is set to rule by June on whether or not to overturn Prop. 8. After being passed in 2008, the proposition was immediately appealed and later ruled unconstitutional by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

It’s been speculated that the justices may simply follow the Ninth Circuit decision as a way to rule on the issue without setting a national precedent. While same-sex marriage is legal in some states, there are currently 37 states that ban it.

“Out of all the unbelievable opportunities my job has afforded me, the most fulfilling experience has been around this particular piece of music,” Macklemore wrote in a guest piece for The Huffington Post. He’s heard stories from fans who were inspired to come out to their parents and friends.

He has also received overwhelming support from fans in areas where he expected pushback. Touring states like Idaho and Montana, he’s been surprised to see packed crowds yelling the lyrics anthem right back to him.

“It’s great to have an ally to create a circle of support, to be able to reverberate this motion,” says Mendoza’s colleague, SJ Pride President Nathan Svoboda. “It takes an ally to reach outside, and I think he’s done a great job of doing that.”

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