The Andrew Turnbull Network

The State of Marriage Equality Nationwide:


Newer updates

December 20, 2013: Holy crap, has Utah become state number seventeen? More to come as the dust the meantime, you can read the court's decision here.

December 18, 2013: A little more than one year ago, only six states had marriage equality and same-sex partners were regarded as single through the DOMA-tinted goggles of federal law. Now sixteen do, and the federal government will recognize them all. If twenty eleven was the year the trends started tipping, twenty thirteen was the year that tip became an avalanche. To demonstrate how far we've come, here's an animated map of state-by-state developments over the last ten years:

[Marriage equality map]

 X  = Marriage banned by state constitution.
    = Marriage banned by repealable statute.
    = No explicit law in effect.
    = Marriage equality.

What's next, though? Marriage equality in Illinois is imminent by June at latest, and couples affected by serious medical conditions may wed early. New Mexico is already a marriage-equality state in that same-sex licenses are being issued and recognized there, and a court edict clarifying the legality statewide may be only days away. (Edit: New Mexico's court edict occurred just hours after my original post!)

Oregon could become the first state to repeal an anti-gay marriage amendment by ballot in 2014, through a process equal and opposite to the one that happened ten years earlier. Colorado and Nevada are also ripe candidates for places where this could occur. Meanwhile, post-DOMA lawsuit challenges to marriage bans are brewing in hot spots nationwide...including the moralistic state of Michigan, where half my family live, anti-gay housing and employment discrimination is perfectly legal, the marriage and civil union prohibitions vie for the most punitive of the entire country, and a sodomy law was still in effect in 2003. Legal challenges should take on an extra momentum come tax time, when couples start filing joint returns per IRS policy and states start refusing to accept them.

On a sobering note, anti-gay amendments are still brewing in two of the four last socially-conservative states that don't have them...but these come off as efforts of an increasingly jaded opposition and passage of them isn't certain even in Indiana. Another point to ponder: Since marriage equality is legal in over one-quarter of U.S. states today, three-quarters ratification of the Federal Marriage Amendment...George W. Bush's wet dream of now nearly impossible.

November 13, 2013: The ink on the marriage certificates in New Jersey has barely dried, but nary a month or week this year goes by without big news from one corner or another! Two new states are slated to shift into the marriage-equality column soon: Hawaii and Illinois.

[Illinois AND Hawaii]

The Land of Lincoln's tale has been one of constant wait. Last February, Illinois was on the verge of becoming the first marriage-equality victory of the year; beating Hawaii, New Jersey, New Mexico, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Delaware, and California to the punch...but it was not to be. The legislation sailed easily through the Senate, but promptly sunk in the House while other issues were trotted out for months on end until the session ran out of time. By June, the bill seemed dead and the state was almost worthy of being written off as a lost cause. Hope was buoyed by a deadline extension and the steadfast support of Governor Pat Quinn, however, and several rallies were held in Springfield to support bringing it to a vote. A special session came and went without action (dashing hopes yet again), but a veto session followed it in the fall...and a vote finally happened at long last on November 5th, 2013.

The wait hasn't ended yet, though. The Governor of Illinois will not sign the bill until a special ceremony scheduled on the 20th. (I can only hope that the crowd won't have any Christian terrorists about.) After it is signed, a six-month period is statutory before it goes into effect...meaning that barring additional legislation, same-sex marriages will not begin until June of next year. The sixteen-month gestation period for marriage equality in Illinois is unfortunate...but considering that the waiting period has already been a lifetime as it is, what's a few weeks more or less?

The Hawaii case is of particular importance for two reasons. To begin, this is the very first time that a state with an anti-gay constitutional amendment went on to legalize marriage equality...though Hawaii's 1998 amendment was unique in that it didn't ban marriage outright, but merely granted the legislature the authority to do so if it desired. In addition, Hawaii is significant as the state where the modern marriage-equality movement originated in the first place, thanks to the lawsuit of Baehr v. Miike more than twenty years ago. What a long, strange trip it's been...

October 19, 2013: More developments continue to come, big and wide! Next week, New Jersey becomes the fourteenth marriage equality state in the US.

[Chris Christie]

The situation in New Jersey had been ridiculous. A 2006 court case had already declared that same-sex couples should receive equal rights, but the state afterwards gravitated towards the "separate and equal" solution of civil unions instead of real marriages. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is an ideologue who's owed his entire existence to fostering Christian supremacism on the altar of the Republican Party. When the legislature of his people passed a marriage equality bill in February 2012, he vetoed it. After last summer's DOMA verdict left no doubt that civil unions were an unfair and unequal arrangement, the New Jersey Superior Court declared that same-sex marriages should begin...but Chris Christie appealed the decision. After scheduling oral arguments, the state's Supreme Court then unanimously denied the stay and ordered for the Superior Court's decision to provisionally take hold on October 21st...a deservedly embarrassing blow for Christie, the one man singlehandedly denying equal rights to his population, wallowing in his own begrudges days before his re-election. I don't shed any tears for him.

Over in Oregon, there's been news of a subtly different sort. Out-of-state same-sex marriages will now be recognized there, although its constitutional marriage ban remains in force. Oregon has permitted out-of-state marriages of all other kinds to be recognized for decades, so this is a no-brainer. Meanwhile, court challenges in the Pacific Wonderland and an amendment repeal campaign continue to brew.

August 31, 2013: Marriage equality in Minnesota and Rhode Island is less than a month old, but news continues to pour in fast and furiously in a post-DOMA world...most particularly from New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment.

New Mexico's legal situation is unique in that the state has never actually had a law in effect banning same-sex marriage equality: The only reason marriages weren't already going on there was that people weren't doing them. Now, that's changed: On August 21st officials began to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Doña Ana County, the second-largest in the state. One day later, a district judge requested for same-sex marriages to begin in Santa Fe County. Several more dominos fell in quick succession, and marriage licenses are now available to gay and lesbian couples in six counties: Doña Ana, Santa Fe, Bernalillo, San Miguel, Valencia, and Taos. Since these counties comprise over half of New Mexico's population and marriage licenses issued in one county may be recognized throughout the state, this effectively makes New Mexico the fourteenth marriage-equality state. A court case is also brewing that may result in marriage-equality being unambiguously legalized statewide.

Footnotes from the New Mexico case raise some interesting issues. As with marriage, the right of joint same-sex adoption is not explicitly codified into state law...and while the prospect of a married gay or lesbian couple being denied the right to adopt seems unlikely, it still might happen. Same-sex marriage licenses had been available from the clerk of Sandoval County for a few hours back in 2004: These licenses were declared void of legal status soon afterward; in spite of the lack of prohibition under New Mexico state law...but now that the winds in the state have changed, these licenses are now being described as "presumptively valid" again. In a similar situation, same-sex marriage licenses have been made available by local initiative in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania...but since Pennsylvania has an anti-marriage statute in force, these marriages could well be nulled or practically revoked at any time. Whether this will change in the future remains to be seen.

[Federal Marriage Amendment co-sponsor] To spite LGBT families in the wake of the DOMA verdict, a coalition of 46 straight-identified white Christian Republican representatives (and one West Virginia Wallace Democrat) have co-sponsored a revival of the Federal Marriage Amendment in Congress. It isn't bound to go anywhere: The Federal Marriage Amendment didn't succeed even in 2006, when the Religious Right held every card in Washington and were freely fanning the flames of bigotry on the state level with every chance they had. Nevertheless, this odious measure is worth the addition of a new table icon for what it reveals about the time-wasting priorities and anti-human inclinations of these (96%) well as those of the constituents who voted them into office.

The recent weeks have been extraordinarily eventful for LGBT rights and marriage equality nationwide. Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court...thereby allowing same-sex couples the ability to receive federal benefits for the first time. On the same day, the court denied the proponents of California's Proposition 8 standing to defend their case...allowing Judge Vaughn Walker's 2010 district court ruling (striking down the anti-gay measure) to finally take effect. Same-sex marriages in California resumed on June 28, 2013. Marriage-equality policies from the last legislative sessions in Delaware, Rhode Island, and Minnesota have also gone into effect as of August 1st, meaning that over twice as many people have the ability to wed this summer than was the case just one year ago.

The implications of the DOMA verdict are fascinating to ponder. A same-sex couple relocating to a place like Wisconsin or West Virginia will have their marriage eliminated as soon as they step inside the state, but they will continue to remain "married" in the eyes of the law for purposes of federal taxes or veterans' benefits. If they walk into Iowa or Maryland, they become married on all levels again. As these logistical absurdities become better-known, we should see the 36 remaining state-level marriage bans start to fall away more quickly than ever before.

In other news, Delaware recently became the 17th state to protect transgender people under antidiscrimination laws. The faster that more and more icons disappear from the "setbacks and related injustices" column below, the better our society will be.

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